Times are tough. We won’t judge you if you head to the local pawn shop to hock that old 14K classic rope chain necklace of yours. (I mean, come on – it’s about as fashionable as an Ed Hardy tee. You’re doing yourself a favor.) We will judge you, however, if you trade in your gold at Empire Loan but neglect to explore the treasure trove of vintage guitars just footsteps from the “cash for gold” sign.
Empire Guitar is located on the second floor of Empire Loan, hidden away like a pearl concealed within a thick oyster shell. Opened in September of 2010, Empire Guitar started as a dream of owner Jeff Keithline, a bassist with 40 years of experience. The store features vintage Gibsons, Fenders, Stratocasters, Les Pauls, Martins and Gurians, in addition to an amp showroom. They also stock new Yamahas for those just getting into the art.
Mike Samos, the store’s manager, shares Keithline’s passion for vintage guitars. “Before the late 1960s, guitars were handmade,” he says. “As those guitars aged, they developed unique musical quirks, and we call that the guitar’s ‘mojo.’ You don’t get that with the mass-produced guitars of today.” Samos’s favorite in-stock guitar is a 1960 Gibson Byrdland worth $11,000.
But don’t fret – the store stocks plenty of less expensive guitars, many of which cost only a couple hundred dollars, a much bet- ter buy than that Audigier t-shirt gaudiness. Empire Guitar also sells boutique and rare pedals, electric amps and loads of guitar accessories. Most importantly, they offer in-house guitar repair for those moments when you smash yours to pieces in a delusional episode of “I’m a rockstar” grandeur.