It is a cliché by now to say that what the malls did to the Mom-and-Pops, the commercial Web is doing to the malls. The more interesting story is how each can find sustained utility or even rebirth here in their close-of-empire afterlives. I once had an idea – deemed “almost good” by some smarter and more practical minds than mine – that a forward-looking company could develop and sell turnkey repurposing plans to the owners of vacated big-box stores, those inevitable eyesores of our futurescape. They would sell templates for next-phase viability when a big brand fails, like Circuit City. The company would design and implement big-box retrofits, with minimal customization, for different post-retail applications like storage, light manufacturing, “mini-mall” retail complexes, office space, mushroom labs, rehearsal studios, iPhone charging farms…I dunno. Go ahead: You can have the idea.
Independent musical instrument stores of the kind in which I grew up – like the new Rosendale Guitars in Rosendale – have had to redefine their niche twice now: after the advent of the big-box store (Guitar Center, Sam Ash, the now-defunct Mars Music), and then again in response to the always-in-stock-because-there-is-no-stock world of online retail. Sites like Musiciansfriend.com or Zzounds.com are just too easy and cheap to avoid using for picks, strings, cables and even some bigger-ticket items that aren’t going to vary much unit to unit, like synthesizers, effects, recording interfaces and microphones.
Some sites, like Sweetwater.com, even hook you up with your own “Music Bro” sales associate, who will call you from time to time to make sure that your music career is rockin’ right on schedule, dude. You know, ‘cause it is all about the relationships. And small music stores in our area face the additional challenge of sharing a market with one of the world’s greatest (no exaggeration) large-format independent music stores in Alto Music.
A local music store is not going to get by selling marked-up strings, sticks and vacuum tubes to players in a pinch. Repair and routine maintenance of cranky old instruments is how a small store is going to get off the ground, and Rosendale Guitars owner Jeff McCoy clearly recognizes this. After a top-line marketing blurb, his Facebook page devotes the next 500 words or so to a detailed breakdown of the sub-routines involved in a guitar setup job. It is good reading, too!
“Buy used” is a conservationist injunction that I find even more compelling than “buy local,” because it is more of a thorn in the supply-side. Musicians are as green as can be in this way: They love used and vintage more than ever. There is no novelty quite like the novelty of an old, forgotten thing rediscovered. But you need a sage navigator in these matters. No two guitars of the same make and model are actually the same, and the differences grow more pronounced over time. Vintage amplifiers, too, experience “component drift”; they’re all decaying and breaking down, but some do it in just the right way.
Then there’s the paranormal dimension of “value drift” and the memes of cool. Cheapo Italian electric guitars that were thought to be nothing more than garbage in their age of manufacture are now hyper-cool, visually and sonically – usually thanks to Jack White or someone. Something is always overvalued; something is always undervalued; and something out there (maybe) is as yet un-rediscovered in this age of eBay and the great, evolving, self-correcting knowledge pool. Hip used guitars and amps are the joy of the small, well-curated music shop. And Rosendale Guitars has them in spades.
Visit Rosendale Guitars at 378 Main Street in Rosendale. Call (845) 430-3950 or go to www.facebook.com/rosendaleguitars.