Back in March of this year, when Guitar Emporium proprietors Jimmy Brown and Mary Jane Aboud retired, music lovers across the region feared the landmark shop had unplugged forever.
But the music store is back, with a fresh set of strings and the same comfortable feel as before. “We put a new suit on an old friend,” says Sherman Buschemeyer, a businessman and erstwhile musician who bought the shop and reopened it in August. “We wanted to clean it up a little bit and make it feel like your living room.”
Like that living room, all of Guitar Emporium’s old friends are still there; Buschemeyer made sure to retain the veteran five-person staff – Jim Schweickart, Eric Whorton, Steve Cooley, Tim Ragan and Theresa Brenzel. And the shop still offers a full range of new and vintage guitars, bass guitars, mandolins and banjos. They also carry accessories and offer instrument repair as well as instruction.
“It’s been pretty seamless, but we’re trying to add on some things,” says Buschemeyer. One of those efforts is Highland Rock, a coaching program that Buschemeyer says is “for kids of similar ages who like the same type of music, whether they’re looking to form a cover band or an originals band.” Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a kid to participate: There will also be sessions for older teens and adult “weekend warriors.” Buschemeyer notes, “You might have a guitar player who doesn’t know anyone who plays bass or drums. ... It’s all based on your skill level and preference and style of music.”
Some preferences remain constant – including the desire to show off. A sign on a table reads, “NO STAIRWAY/NO TEEN SPIRIT/NO SINGING,” which references, of course, two of the most imitated riffs in rock. “That sign is more of a joke than anything,” Buschemeyer says, “But what you hear in certain generations – the first thing they’ll pick up and want to play – is Zeppelin or Nirvana, and that’s the last thing you want to hear. Or younger guys will come in and sing to their girlfriends.” And what does Buschemeyer think about hearing Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”? Small groan. How about the Beatles’ “Blackbird”? “That one’s okay,” he says.
Of course, should Jimmy Page drop by, he wouldn’t be the first illustrious virtuoso to do so; the walls are lined with memorabilia autographed by famous customers. While the showroom’s comfortable studio feel is unintimidating to amateurs, it has its flashes of flamboyance, too. When asked who buys a $15,000 Teye guitar, handcrafted with pearl inlay, Buschemeyer is nonchalant about the prospect of it selling at any time. “It could be anyone from a collector to a famous musician to somebody who wants to hang it on the wall as a piece of art.” (Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes plays a similar model.)
Although Buschemeyer also owns a medical diagnostic testing business, he calls Guitar Emporium his full-time job. It is also his only professional musical outlet these days, now that he and his wife, Dr. Gigi Girard, are raising their daughter, Gabrielle, 4, and son, Rhys, 2.
Buschemeyer plans to watch Guitar Emporium continue to grow, too, with the help of the neighborhood that has nurtured it for the past 38 years. “I would just ask that people keep on keeping Louisville weird and come to the local shop. Some people get [gear] online. But here, we’ll talk to you about the guitar so you really know what you’re buying – so you’ll go home more pleased.”
Guitar Emporium is (still) located at 1610 Bardstown Road in the Highlands. For more information, call (502) 459-4153 or visit Guitar Emporium on Facebook or www.guitar-emporium.com.