Dealer Spotlight: Sam Ash

"I've been loving and selling Guilds for over 40 years and collecting a few as I go along,” said Ash. “These are a few of my rarities.”

Since its foundation in 1924, Sam Ash Music has become a household name in the musical instrument retail industry. With 45 locations nationwide, it’s one of the oldest and largest music chain stores in the United States and is the world’s largest family-owned musical instrument retailer of its size.

Sam Ash Music Corp. COO Sammy Ash has been with the company for more than 40 years and said customers can’t go wrong shopping at his stores.

“We do the right thing every time.  Sometimes, things fall through the cracks, but we always make it right,” he said. “After all, the family’s name is on the door.”

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Dealer Spotlight: Guitars of Montana

Guild guitars recently chatted with Mr. Bing Schmitt from Guitars of Montana for the story behind his music shops and his take on Guild products.

Ten years ago, Bing and Pam Schmitt founded Guitars of Montana in Stanford, Mont., – a rural community with a population of 400. Business was booming, and the couple eventually opened two more locations, Wicks Guitars in Lewiston (operated by renowned luthier Brian Wicks), and another location also named Guitars of Montana in downtown Great Falls.

All three locations are thriving, and Schmitt assured he couldn’t do it without his stellar employees.

“If I didn’t have the staff I have, there’d be no way to pull it off,” he said. “The staff around here is what makes the company work.”

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Dealer Spotlight: Music Emporium – North Bellmore, N.Y.

If you’re on Long Island, you’re in for a treat when you stop by Music Emporium in North Bellmore. The 6,000-square-foot music store and lesson studio has some of the industry’s most exciting gear in stock.

Owner Charlie Lovarco founded Music Emporium in the early 1980s, never suspecting that one of Long Island’s most respected music entities would evolve from such humble beginnings.

“It started off as a teaching facility,” said Lovarco. “One thing led to another, and now we have over 20 full-time music teachers and carry full lines of music instruments.”

And when Lovarco says “full lines of music instruments,” he’s not kidding. When you walk into the shop, you’ll find nearly any instrument series you’re looking for. That includes Guild, and if you’re looking for the GAD series or any other Guild line, Music Emporium will very likely carry it all.

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Dealer Spotlight: Ludlow Guitars, New York, N.Y.

Ludlow Guitars in Manhattan’s Lower East Side is a class-act New York destination for connoisseurs of fine instruments.

“In a supermarket, you can get 18 different kinds of sliced white bread,” says owner Jan Howell. “And if you know what you want, then that’s a perfectly good place to go. We’re not the supermarket; we’re the corner store.”

But Ludlow Guitars doesn’t discriminate. Although the store attracts mostly discerning musicians, its doors are open to all. Besides, it’s hard for the average bystander not to be captivated by the bedazzling eye-candy mounted on the store’s walls.

“Our objective is to get customers inside our store, and show them what we’ve got,” says Howell. “Then we want to wrap their arms around something they like, rather than having them end up with an instrument that might not be for them.”

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Dealer Spotlight: Matt Umanov Guitars, New York, N.Y.

Matt Umanov Guitars in New York’s Greenwich Village bears the name of a legend. Umanov worked for Guild during his formative years and also studied under the great New York luthier John D’Angelico, widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest arch-top instrument makers. He opened his first guitar shop in 1963 and worked later that decade in Dan Armstrong’s Greenwich Village workshop on Armstrong’s famous plexiglass instruments. Umanov is now considered one of the world’s leading authorities on high-quality guitars, and he is highly sought by other noted guitar makers for his wealth of expertise.

His fascination with the instrument took hold very early on — he first held a guitar at age 3, and he began tinkering with electronics only a year later.

“I was a very mechanical kid,” Umanov said. “I was the 4-year-old who took things apart and put them back together.”

His imperturbable passion and determination took him a long way. As a teenager, Umanov landed a job doing final setups at the Guild factory in Hoboken, N.J., where he worked with craftsmen three times his age.

By age 18, Umanov had already established a solid reputation as one of the Northeast’s prime go-to men for high-end guitar repairs. When he opened his own retail and repair shop in the 1960s, he worked on instruments for giants such as Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Judy Collins, to name only a few.

After his youthful apprenticeship with Guild in Hoboken and throughout his colorful career right up until today, Umanov has continued to work extensively with Guild guitars. He knows them to a tee and he swears by supreme quality.

“Guild guitars are beautifully built and have tremendous value,” he said. “It’s great stuff. I’m a guitar maker; I’m a guitar restorer. I stand behind everything we sell here. I know what a well-built guitar is and what it isn’t, and if a guitar is going to blow up in one year, 10 years or 40 years, I can see it now.”

The impeccable reputation of Matt Umanov Guitars continues to grow not only because of the staff’s genuine devotion to delivering exceptional service, but also because of the shop’s truly fine instrument selection. That includes plenty of top-quality Guild models.

“I have them here because they’re excellent,” Umanov said. “If they weren’t excellent, I wouldn’t have them. I don’t want anything that’s not excellent in this store.”

With a clientele ranging from neighborhood kids to A-list celebrities, Matt Umanov Guitars remains an ultimate destination for guitar aficionados in general and Guild aficionados in particular.

Matt Umanov Guitars
273 Bleeker St.
New York, N.Y. 10014

Dealer Spotlight: 8th Street Music, Pennsauken, N.J.

Family owned since 1940, 8th Street Music in Pennsauken, N.J., is a longstanding music store with a colorful history and a vibrant selection of the finest instruments.

When founder Albert Hershman first opened shop, he had a small pawnshop, located on 8th and Market streets in downtown Philadelphia, that sold jewelry and a few musical items.

Philadelphia was also home to hugely successful television show American Bandstand, bringing some of the most popular music acts to town. The city itself also spawned some of early rock’s best-known vocalists, including Chubby Checker, Frankie Avalon, James Darren and Bobby Rydell. This thriving ’50s and ’60s music scene would determine the fate of 8th Street Music, which began selling musical instruments exclusively in the 1960s and is now a music megastore.

8th Street Music called Philadelphia home for 27 years, but after outgrowing its location there it was moved to South New Jersey, with a warehouse and showroom to complement its website.

Aside from being the first music store to do online sales in the mid-1990s, 8th Street Music was also one of the very first Guild dealers in the 1950s.

Current owners Randy Segal and Mark Hershman continue to stock Guilds.

“They’re unique and iconic guitars that have been around for a long time,” they said.

8th Street Music has everything from limited edition models to best-selling Guild guitars such as the GAD series.

“They have a particular voicing that people really enjoy when they play them,” Segal noted.

And he should know; he’s a seasoned guitarist who has been in the business for more than 30 years.

The store serves all types of customers, from beginners to professionals.

“I’ve had some customers who are really fine players and have never played Guild, and when they pick one up, they say, ‘Wow! What’s this?’” Segal shared.

8th Street Music has also enjoyed special visits from famous musicians such as Jason Bonham and James Taylor. A U.K. MTV crew also filmed there for reality television show MTV Road to the World Stage.

8th Street Music
7815 Airport Highway
Pennsauken, N.J. 08109

Dealer Spotlight: Robb’s Boulder Music

Robb’s Boulder Music in Boulder, Colo., holds a special place in the community, and it’s been that way since it was established in 1978.

Founder William “Robb” Candler opened the shop in the once-vacant box office of the historical Boulder Theater. After the business grew, Candler moved it to several locations across town, and sold the shop to current owner Seth Goodman before retiring in 2007.

Robb’s Boulder Music is now thriving in its current Steel Yard neighborhood location, where it serves hundreds of loyal customers seeking a vast selection of high-quality instruments. And since high quality is their specialty, so is Guild.

Store manager and Guild aficionado Mark Arroyo is an experienced guitar connoisseur with over 30 years of experience.

“As a bit of a studier and someone who grew up around guitars, I can say Guild is probably the only American company that’s never really seen a significant slip in quality,” he said. “It never seems like Guild had a drop-off in quality, and that is the general consensus across the board.”

He is also the proud owner of two vintage Guild electric guitars, a 1964 Guild Starfire IV and a 1966 Starfire III. Arroyo knows Guild guitars are built to last.

“Over time, Guild guitars don’t get taken down nearly to the level that other competitors’ products do,” he said. “Oftentimes, Guilds are built a little heavier than other manufacturers’ products, and they handle the Colorado climate better.”

Robb’s Boulder Music does very well with acoustic guitar sales, which can be attributed in part to Colorado’s booming bluegrass scene. Some of the more popular Guild guitars sought by customers are the D-55, F-47, F-412 and F-212 models.

Arroyo hopes to add a Guild F-30 to his personal collection and to the shop’s inventory.

“We have a lot of customers that will associate instruments with certain artists,” he said. “By having an educated crowd as far as clientele goes, people will see the F-30 and think of Mississippi John Hurt, or say ‘Hey! Richie Havens opened Woodstock on a Guild guitar!’”

Robb’s Boulder Music has received many accolades over the years, and was recently named one of NAMM’S top 100 U.S. retailers.

Robb’s Boulder Music
2691 30th St.
Boulder, Colo., 80301

Dealer Spotlight: Guitar Resurrection

Guitar Resurrection in Austin, Texas, boasts a rich history, a knowledgeable staff and a vast selection of Guild guitars.

Founded in 1970 as a music repair store in Berkeley, Calif., Guitar Resurrection migrated to Austin’s Crestview neighborhood in 1975 and has flourished as a high-end boutique retailer.

Owner Jim Lehmann has been in the business for nearly 40 years, and when it comes to knowing what’s best, he knows it’s Guild guitars.

“Guild is our best-selling brand,” he said. “Guild guitars have a very warm sound without being mushy; they’ve got a nice clarity to them without being too bright. It’s just a nice even, full, round sound that people really like a lot.”

Guitar Resurrection has enjoyed a loyal customer base for decades. Much of that can be attributed to the shop’s selection, service and honesty.

“We’ll never mislead or try to stick customers with something,” Lehmann said. “We’ll always match them up with the proper thing for what they’re trying to do.”

Although many Guild aficionados flock to the shop knowing what they want, many Guitar Resurrection customers nonetheless seek the staff’s expertise.

“Guilds have sold because we put them in clients’ hands,” Lehmann said. “Sometimes they come in asking for something else, but we suggest Guilds, and clients say, ‘Wow, that’s really nice,’ and they come back for them.”

Some of the store’s best-selling Guild guitars are the D-50, D-55 and GAD-30, GAD-40 and GAD-50 models.

Guitar Resurrection
813 Morrow St. Austin, Texas, 78757 512-478-0095

Dealer Spotlight: Street Sounds

What once started as a compact disc store nestled in the streets of Brooklyn has now been transformed into one of the most sought-after music shops in the country.

Rocky Schiano, owner of Street Sounds, has been in business since 1988. He and his father, Ralph, started selling CDs until they slowly started bringing in guitars, eventually making a complete turnover.

Located in the Bay Ridge neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., Street Sounds prides itself on carrying the finest quality instruments, and the store’s collection could not be complete without Guild guitars. It has a wide inventory of Guild guitars and has been the largest independent Guild dealer in the United States for the past three years.

Although most of Street Sounds’ sales are done through its website, Guild fanatics nationwide travel far and wide to visit the popular store. The majority of its clientele consists of mature, experienced players who are highly educated about guitars, but the selection there caters to novice and veteran guitarists alike.

Street Sounds does very well with its Guild selection, particularly with D-55 and F-512 models. And aside from its envious inventory, the success of Schiano’s business is founded on the exceptional service he delivers.

“We make it very easy for someone to be comfortable purchasing a guitar, which is a very important part in dealing Guild,” he said. “Each guitar has its own tone and feel, and we want customers to be very confident during their purchase.”

Street Sounds NYC
9206 3rd Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11209

Dealer Spotlight: Diplomate Musique

For 35 years now, a major home for Guild in eastern Canada is Montreal’s Diplomate Musique, a small boutique retailer where father/son proprietors Franco and Steve Amante offer the best in high-end instruments to the most discerning musicians in a vast metro area of more than 4 million people. And when it comes to acoustic guitars, high-end means Guild.

The Amantes cater to a more specific clientele than that of the giant chain retailers. A small number of customers are beginners and novice players, true, but more often those who come through Diplomate Musique’s doors are experienced players who are already quite serious about acoustic guitars. Over more than three decades, the Amantes have earned a reputation for exemplary service among these seasoned players.

They’ve also earned an enviable reputation for offering a fine selection. Situated in the heart of central Montreal on Rue Beaubien East, Diplomate Musique has at any given time a large and nicely varied range of Guild guitars right there on the premises.

“We’re one of the biggest Guild dealers in Montreal,” Steve Amante said. “We have over 40 guitars in stock, on the wall. It’s our main line for high-end acoustics. The first time people come in, it’s the first thing I suggest.”

Diplomate Musique opened in 1972 and began carrying Guild guitars shortly thereafter. Franco Amante became a manager there in 1979; he took over operation of the store in 1987 after the original owners announced their intention to close down and sell. Steve Amante worked in the store part time while he was in school during that era, going full-time in the early 1990s.

Guild guitars were there all along, and Steve Amante understands why they appeal to his customers so much.

“I find that overall, they’re very solidly made; well balanced in sound,” he said. “They project well and they don’t sound metallic—they’re very smooth. Guild is known for that smooth, mellow tone.”