BY JEREMY SHERE
To stay competitive in the modern retail world, most brick-and-mortar music stores try to appeal to as broad a range of customers as possible by offering a wide variety of instruments and gear aimed at everyone from working musicians to novices.
Bloomington’s newest music shop, Bloomington Guitar & Amp, takes a different approach.
“This is not the place to find a starter guitar for your kid,” says Evan Whikehart, who opened the store this past January. “I assume that anyone with an Internet connection has already done their research, knows what they’re looking for, and knows they can get it cheaper online. The appeal of Bloomington Guitar & Amp is more about a particular, well-curated vibe that speaks to musicians.”
To that end, Whikehart stocks the store with used guitars, amplifiers, and other equipment (both new and used) that he finds interesting and worthwhile. You won’t find the same voluminous selection of brand name guitars and amps as at big chains like Guitar Center, or even smaller shops such as Bloomington’s own Vance Music Center. But Bloomington Guitar & Amp is perfect for collectors looking for hard-to-find gear, such as Rickenbacker electric guitars and Music Man amps. A self-described “effects pedal nerd,” Whikehart also carries a wide range of boutique pedals, such as Catalinbread, which are handcrafted guitar-effects pedals out of Portland, Oregon, and Stigtronics, pedals custom built by Bloomington-based effects guru Michael Stiglitz. (Effects pedals are devices that alter how a musical instrument or other audio source sounds.)
So far, Whikehart says, business has been good, buoyed by a steady stream of guitar- and amp-repair work. Looking ahead, he plans to expand the business by introducing a line of store-built guitar effects pedals and offering workshops for people who want to learn to repair and customize guitars and amps.
For the moment, though, Whikehart says he is focused on keeping the business simple and honest. “Even if a customer doesn’t find something they want, I want anyone who walks into the store to see something interesting,” he says. “I want people to know that the stuff we carry is here because the owner really believes in its value.”