We live in a digital age. The internet has taken over a lot of industries: travel agents, print journalism, map making, book stores, porn magazines and… music stores. The music industry has been minimized and taken over by IT companies. The internet is giving the brick-and-mortar music store hard times. It is sad to see how the local music store is struggling with the domination of the big online box movers like Thomann or Musicstore. Sure, there is nothing wrong with ordering a Gibson Les Paul from the comfort of your chair but somehow it makes me sad. Am I old fashioned? Maybe.
Six guitar amps I ordered from several European online stores went straight back or to my amp tech. They all had issues like broken valves, torn up speakers or produced “weird” noises. Yes, there is a 30 days or more return policy but it is never hassle free. I have to box it up again, drive to the tech or the courier service or spend an evening on burning my fingers with the soldering iron. That is why I still prefer the mom-and-pop music store.
As a kid, I was licking windows of music stores. Take the bus to the city and getting hypnotized by the goodies at the music shop. Saving and washing dishes in a restaurant to buy that Japanese Strat copy. The offers and choices of guitars were limited but the craving and the desire to buy the instrument were considered a life goal. Now I own 100+ guitars, basses and amps mostly acquired from brick-and-mortar music stores. The online purchase of an instrument does not give me the same buyers satisfaction as an online order.
A musical instrument store is like a museum, a coffee shop and good place to stop. You can try out an instrument or order your guitar(amp) if it is not in stock. In general the prices are the same (or better) than the online store and I get some serious service on top: free set up to my desire and a quality check. I never came home from a store with a broken amp! Nowadays it is hard to see these stores have to make a living of the repairs from stuff people buy on the internet.
One of my favorite stores is JnR Music Center in Hasselt (B). It is run by musician and luthier John Joris. They carry a large selection of vintage and new acoustic guitars. If you cannot find your guitar of choice, he can build you one. Over 40 years of craftmanship in guitar building and repairs. John worked for Lou Reed, Toots Thielemans, Sting and Paul Simon.
I rather buy from an expert and not from a warehouse owner or drop shipper. Unless you like to buy the smell when opening a guitar case for the first time … buy from your local music store!