I felt it necessary to provide a little background on what led me to this point – building GuitarNiche.
There once was a time back in the mid nineties where everything was going perfect. I had more than enough money, a job I absolutely loved at a local small town mom and pop music store, lots of service clients, TONS of students and three bands on the go. I was one busy boy.
Then time passes. Flagship products shift to other local retailers through corporate shuffling, the store I’m working at closes, and I decide to hang my own shingle because that’s what I know and I have the passion to continue to do what I do. I’m opening my own store! Jammit Music.
Music and Sound closed on a beautiful Friday at the end of March of 2000. After playing a gig that night in Barrie Ontario, I officially opened Jammit Music the following morning. I showed up bright and early to greet students waiting at the door ready to go – pretty cool, to be able to open your own shop without skipping a beat. It was surreal and familiar all at the same time.
I turned the key in that front door every morning for many years with a wonderful sense of pride, joy and anticipation. This was MY house, and I wanted to built it bigger, better, badder.
So that’s what I did.
It took a few years; reinvesting to bring in inventory, hiring staff, building systems. And in early 2009 during the beginnings of a wonderful recession, I convinced my account manager at the bank to float me a business loan to manifest a move. The idea was to take advantage of the downturn to negotiate a good lease with one of the many empty spaces in the prime area of my choice.
So again, that’s what I did.
It was at this point the chinks started to form. I didn’t know at the time but they were already deeply rooted. Sometimes you get so focused on the goal, everything else, your family, your little girls, your primary personal relationships, your sense of what really matters… becomes blurred. That and the fact that there is absolutely no way to predict what the future holds. Who knew the “slight downturn” would last for years… sorry, but my crystal ball is a little cloudy today.
The wheels continued to turn, but they were wobbling big time. There was a good bit of growth after the initial move to a larger space: we tripled our inventory and doubled our student body. But the economy was not keeping pace. It became harder and harder to pull in business compared to previous years – and I wasn’t getting any younger.
My world of fun had collapsed. Separation, debt, no business growth, working harder for less reward – just plain ugly. That was my shit-show.
And one day while driving past my store, I glanced over at the building as I passed it and thought, ‘what if it wasn’t there, what if it was just… gone…’ In a split second everything in my world came into immediate focus.
I was done, the business had killed my passion, therefore I had to kill the business.
Funny thing is, I eventually realized every last bit of circumstance and condition that had led to that point was my fault. All the result of the choices I had made. And I take full responsibility, I will not point a finger at anything or any one other than myself. I do not suffer from regret, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat because I did it my way – thanks Frank (and Paul).
So I floundered for the last couple of years looking for purpose and a new venture. All the while feeling disgusted with the whole guitar, music biz thing – ugh (turns head and spits). I had to find another avenue of interest other than the machine that had destroyed my one true friend.
Rather than go on with more suck-it-up life moments, let me say this; I am absolutely convinced that all my previous experiences were purposeful, and happened for a reason – to prepare me for something… more meaningful.
Then one day it hit me. Someone, I think it was Glen Booth from Levy’s, posted a picture of an absolutely gorgeous Les Paul custom shop ’59 repro. There’s normally nothing remarkably special about such a pic that would catch my eye, there’s lots of them out there. But this one.., this one struck a sleeping nerve. I was instantly re-energized. I don’t know if it was the cast of light, the checking, the background or whatever. All I knew was, ‘Oh my god that’s gorgeous, just beautiful’.
That was one big spark. And I was sucked in all over again.
Which ultimately led me here, to GuitarNiche.
With a renewed passion and purpose, I decided to commit to helping others by sharing my many, many years of experience with through the medium of the digital world. Giving it away to the benefit of anyone who has an interest in the workings of a fine playing machine. Anyone who looks at a guitar and is utterly captivated by its shape, and wonders in its infinite musical potential.
My friends, GuitarNiche is for you.
Thank you for this story Steve. It will help me keep perspective as I hang my shingle this year and into the future at Mulrain Guitars. I have always valued your opinion and your knowledge in guitars and business. It is refreshing to hear a real success story, rebirth and reinvention. I’m am glad you found your passion again and I wish you every success with Guitar Niche and your future endeavours. Please come and visit me when you have some time so we can figure out how many cylinders I am firing on starting a handmade guitar company. Your thoughts and support are always welcome! Wishing you satisfying work and well earned luck!
Shaun Mulrain – Mulrain Guitars
Thanks for the kind words Shaun, very much appreciated. I’ll pop by asap.
You will be missed. I still remember you working away @ Music and Sound.
Thanks for sharing that journey…glad you have rekindled your love for guitars/music…look forward to checking out guitar niche in more detail ….thanks for sharing your knowledge and talent. Good luck with Guitar Niche
Thanks Dave, much appreciated :)