Louisville’s musicians had their hearts collectively broken when the Guitar Emporium closed in early March. The store had been an institution for nearly 40 years, serving a local, national and even international clientele.
A budding guitarist could shop at the same store where Keith Richards had shopped, get lessons from veteran professionals, take a spin on a $10,000 vintage Gibson and, most importantly, learn what it meant to be part of a vibrant music community.
Sherman Buschemeyer understands all of that because he’s been there, and when the longtime musician swung a deal to buy Guitar Emporium from owners Jimmy Brown and Mary Jane Aboud, he was careful not to make radical changes to the store at 1610 Bardstown Road.
The store reopens Saturday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9 a.m. Mayor Greg Fischer will do the honors, and watching will be Brown and Aboud, who are married and enjoying retirement.
But the most important attendees will be the Guitar Emporium’s longtime staff, which Buschemeyer rehired wholesale. Steve Cooley, Jim Schweikert, Eric Whorton, Theresa Brenzel, Tim Ragan and Gus the Dog have picked up right where they left off.
“Without them, it wouldn’t be the Guitar Emporium,” Buschemeyer said.
Not everything will be the same. For the foreseeable future, the store will not sell new Fender products, instead dedicating that space to used guitars. The store’s reputation was built on its selection of quality pre-loved guitars, and that reputation is what enticed Richards, Bob Dylan, Billy Gibbons and Neil Young to shop there.
Buschemeyer has also instituted something called Highlands Rock, a program modeled after Rock School, a longtime program at the locally owned Mom’s Music. It caters to younger musicians wanting to learn how to play within the context of a band, and will be held in the evenings after the store closes. A room formerly dedicated to bass guitars has been turned into a practice space, with stage and a full complement of equipment.
“We’re going to be beating the bushes, trying to connect with all the schools around here, connect with the kids,” Buschemeyer said. “One of the hardest things when you’re a kid is finding other kids to play with ... and we really want to be a community-based store, not just the Highlands but the South End, the West End, wherever.”
Whorton said that returning to the Emporium has been akin to slipping on a pair of favorite boots. The changes fit the store’s well-established profile, he said, keeping things familiar while offering a fresh take.
“It’s very important to us to carry on and represent the vibe and legacy that Jimmy and Mary Jane created,” said Whorton, perhaps the city’s finest pure rock ’n’ roll guitarist.
“Jimmy has definitely given us his blessing, but it’s funny — he was in here the other day checking it out and he started rearranging guitars on the wall, putting them where he would have displayed them. I just kept walking along behind him, putting them back where we had them.”
Contact Jeffrey Lee Puckett at (502) 582-4160, email@example.com and on Twitter, @JLeePuckett.