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String Shoppe History

It was 1960. I was a senior in high school. The folk music boom was just starting. The Kingston Trio was on the radio. One of the adult leaders of a youth group I joined played guitar and sang "folk songs." I sang the chorus to the songs I knew. That was when I crossed over from listener to participant. I had seen people singing and playing guitar in coffee Houses in Buffalo, like The Lime Light on Edward and The Lower Level on Potomac. (If you remember these places you are well over 50!) I met people my age and younger who had taught themselves to play guitar. I soon knew this was for me. I bought a new Kay classic guitar and started learning to play. I wasn’t very good.

I thought that a better guitar would improve my playing. I started asking and reading about guitars. There really weren’t many books about guitars and particularly which ones were suited for folk music. Every time I saw someone playing I would look to see what make and model they used. If I was able to talk to the person I would ask why they chose that guitar and which ones they liked.

After a while I came to the conclusion that I needed a steel string guitar. Having learned a bit about guitars I decided to look for a used one. I read the Musical Instruments column in the classified ads every day. One day I went to look at a guitar. I decided it was not what a wanted. However, the man who was selling it had fixed it up and had a couple more he had also fixed up. This was the first person I’d met who actually fixed up old guitars.

One day I came across and old Gibson arch top guitar at a bargain price. I wanted a flattop but figured I could trade it with that man for a better flattop. I did trade with him but instead of what I wanted I ended up with two less expensive guitars. So, now I had to sell those to get the money for a better guitar.

I didn’t know it at the time but that turned out to be the first step towards starting The String Shoppe. I started buying used guitars that I thought I could clean up and resell. Some of the guitars needed more than cleaning up so I soon began learning how to do repairs and adjustments. I read the few books the library had and located other people who did guitar repairs. One of these people was a semi-retired man who built basses and violins. Fortunately, he took a liking to me. I spent many hours listening to him talk about building and repairing instruments.

In 1966 I formally started The String Shoppe in my one bedroom apartment. When I married in 1967 we moved into a two bed room apartment. One bedroom became the repair shop and store. I needed more guitars than what I was finding used so I began buying some new ones.

By 1970 there were customers coming most evenings and I had run out of space in the bedroom. Also, I wanted to carry high quality new guitars but without an actual store the quality guitar manufacturers would not sell to me. It was time for a store.

I found a reasonably priced storefront to rent in the Riverside section of Buffalo. In November of 1970 I opened the store at 524 Ontario Street. Hard to believe, but this is where the String Shoppe is still located.

Today, The String Shoppe has several hundred new and used guitars. Steel string (6 & 12 string), classic, acoustic-electric, arch top, thin body electric and solid body too. Banjos, (open back and resonator, mandolins, guitar-banjos, autoharps, violins, upright bass, mountain dulcimers, ukuleles and more. Everything from basic low priced instruments to fine limited production models. Amplifiers for electric and acoustic guitars. A huge selection of accessories including strings, picks, tuning aids, machines, pick ups, transducers, straps, bridge pins, nuts, bridges, saddles (pre-cut and blanks), pearl inlays and pieces of pearl. Even some LPs!


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