Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Favorite Instrument Stores

This goes along with Welder’s “New Topics to Discuss”, but I thought I’d start a new post to keep it somewhat organized.

Like most all of us, I’m always searching for new music stores to visit or call. I thought it would be interesting to see where we’ve all been across the nation and even the world and see what our favorites are with a short description of these places and maybe even give a wish list of places we’d like to see.

Here’s my list of favorites I’ve visited:

Wildwood Music, Roscoe Village (Coshocton, Oh): Don And Marty roll out the red carpet for all their customers. High end store with one of the biggest selection of Martin and Taylor guitars you’ll find. Very picky about their inventory and keep instruments in cases or glass cases and are always wiped down after test drives. This is the kind of place to actually buy an instrument. No trades or used inventory though, All acoustic and always quiet when I visit.

Elderly Instruments, Lansing, Mi: Huge inventory of about anything you would want, used, new and vintage. Free to pick up anything and play but they keep the extremely costly instruments in “the vault” and can play upon request. You could spend a whole day here and it will seem like only an hour or so. It’s a blast.

Gruhn Guitars, Nashville, TN: I haven’t been to the new store yet, but if the same people are there, I’m sure it’s excellent. Great high end inventory and Billy is superb to deal with.

Smoky Mountain Guitars: Very nice store, not at all crowded when I was there and very high end inventory. It’s the only place I know that carries Altman guitars and mandolins. This is where I traded for my Collings.

Artisan Guitars Franklin, TN: Only been there once, but was treated great and was impressed with their high end inventory. If I remember right, they didn’t have much in the way of Martins other than used. I’m not much of a Martin guy so it didn’t bother me, but for Martin lovers, there was not a whole lot there. That may have changed since I last visited. They had a lot of Collings and Santa Cruz. not sure about Bourgeous, I just can’t remember. Very neat place to visit.

Wilcutt Guitars, Lexington, KY: They have a nice inventory of nearly all the big names, even McPherson and they want you to play them. Try to go through week, it was a zoo on a Saturday that I went the first time.

My Favorite Guitars, Naples, FL: Jon is a great guy and knows his stuff and is very helpful. This is more of an internet store where he ships all over, but does have inventory on the floor and are more than welcome to come in and play.

Sweetwater Music, Ft Wayne, IN: This is the place to go for recording, mics, software, electronic devices. etc. These guys are top notch and very professional and really know how to help and give advice. And the place is HUGE! I think 90% of it is warehouse and shipping.

The places I would love to visit are: Mass Street Music in Lawrence KS, Greg Boyd"s House of Fine Instruments, Missoula, MT and Acoustic Music Works, Pittsburg, PA.

I’m interested to see where others have been if anyone’s interested in replying.


Dude! Do you spend your vacations going to music stores? :laughing: :laughing: :laughing:

Seriously, that is a great list. On your list I have been to Gruhn’s multiple times. It is my “go to” store. I also spent many hours and dollars as a teen at Wilcutt’s. I did that even though Bob didn’t seem to like me (I was one of those long-haired hippy freaky teenagers… Bob didn’t say that, but he looked like he was thinking it). Wilcutt’s was not near the store it is now. It was almost like a storage unit with a bunch of gear stacked up… hidden treasures to be found for the adventurous. I have bought about 6 modest instruments from Elderly, but I’ve never been there. I’ve never bought from MFG, but have talked to Jon about some technical issues they were having with with email security. After those conversations, I’d buy an instrument from him with absolute confidence. In this area, I like Charley’s in Dallas and Craig’s in Weatherford. Both are nice shops, but neither rise to the level you established.

Man, I feel like a wimp. I have only been to a tiny portion of your list (which is a great list). Those only places that jump to mind that you didn’t list: Gryphon, Mandolin Brothers, LA guitars, hawaii music supply (I’d kind of like to get a tenor Kamaka uke). I’m sure I have left some out, so my apologies in advance.

Good write-up on stores, JW. There are a lot of stores on that list that I would love to visit. I need to get myself out to Nashville soon. Artisan is pretty high up on my list to visit, I have never played a Santa Cruz. I have been to Smoky Mountain Guitars and couldn’t describe it any better than you did. It is a Collings paradise. I played a Corbin there and I believe they are now a Bourgeois dealer as well.

Knoxville has a decent Guitar Center that carries a some high end Martins and Gibsons. My favorite guitar store in town is Pick 'n Grin. High end Martin and Taylor dealer (and Blue Chip! :laughing: ) that has been here for years, I try to give them most of my buisness, great folks there. Ciderville is also a great little shop here in town.

Brings to mind an old Hank Snow song " I’ve been everywhere" Except for the Dayton area I have not been to many stores I am the kind of guy who does not go unless I am buying and I don’t do that very often. I have bought three banjos new and about 7 guitars but never hung on to them long and traded until I was happy with what I had . A recent purchased may have finished buying for me. I am happy with the New Martin although I have never been a big Martin fan and may wind up selling it or trading down the road. I lean toward the Taylor Guitars they seem to have not better but different sound than most guitars . Of course if I had oddles of money I would live in a store LOL. I think most here would be like a kid in a candy store . Thanks for the post I like to see new stuff . Great list of stores also.

I live an hour from Elderly and haven’t seen the need to go elsewhere. Not much they don’t carry that I would need.

Most of my instruments i get from a builder (new) or owner (used).

I wouldn’t think of giving Gruhn’s a dime after they appraised my friends estate…and exited with all his better instruments as their fee, taking advantage of his clueless family members.

Lot of good stores mentioned in this thread so far. Only been to two of them and those being Gruhn and the GC in Knoxville. One of the best in my state and my favorite is Janet Davis Music in northwest Arkansas. Not a big store but specialize in acoustic instruments and usually have a good inventory of high end boxes. Super friendly folks. They probably do more business online through their website than they do locally.

Thanks for the replies and interest.

Some of the places you all have mentioned, I should put on my wish list to go visit if I’m ever those directions. I’ve seen instruments on the internet from Janet Davis and it seems like a nice high end store.

I forgot about Gryphon, Mando Bros and LA Guitars. They’re on my wish list too now.

Has anyone been to the new Gruhn’s since they moved?


I’m lucky enough to work about 10 minutes from one of the best, The Music Emporium. They’re the largest Collings dealer of them all. I got my used MT2 from them, and also an older Gibson J-45 and a new National Resophonic Tricone.


If you’re browsing the site, that Monteleone mandolin that’s listed as ‘Sold’, was actually stolen. Someone walked right out of the shop with it, and one other mandolin, and they didn’t notice for a couple of days. Yikes. And still they have a pretty relaxed attitude about letting you take instruments off the shelf w/o asking first.

“Lucky” is right Jim. I just checked out their website and that looks like a fantastic shop. If it were only 10 minutes from where I work I know what I’d be doing on my lunch break every day!

I think I might be in trouble if I lived within 10 minutes of there. I might need another job or two.

— Begin quote from "mreisz"

I think I might be in trouble if I lived within 10 minutes of there. I might need another job or two.

— End quote

Yeah, me too! If I lived that close, I think I’d try to make that my second job.

Yup the proximity has set back my early retirement plans a little. I might run over there at lunch today in fact. I hate to say it, but I do not love my Collings MT2. The finish, volume, playability are all top notch, I just don’t like the tone. It’s too bright, and sometimes it sounds tinny to my ears. Odd as it sounds, I prefer the tone of my ‘The Loar VS 220’.

TME just picked up a Northfield F, and if I like it I might see if I can a swap with the MT2. Not sure they’ll do it straight up, but maybe with a little bit of cash. They usually have a couple of Ellis that I love to play, but I’ll never afford one of those so I don’t know why I torture myself doing that.

I’m anxious to hear what you think of the Northfield Jim. I’ve never played one but have certainly heard all the fuss over them.

I did make a quick trip over to the Store. I’m not going to be able to give you a very detailed or technical review of the instrument, just not knowledgeable enough. The Northfield was very nicely built, nicer than anything I’ve seen in an F style in that price range. Nicely setup, neck felt good to me although I’ve never had a problem with necks on any instrument. Seems to me that’s a concern for some folks. It had a decent amount of volume, maybe a tad less than my MT2, but close. I wasn’t thrilled with the tone. Maybe it’s me, I was complaining about the MT2’s tone. I played one of their MT’s , and nope, didn’t like that either. I had the same issue with all of them, just too bright and I like a darker sound. I did like the Eastman’s, tone wise, although not a fan of the finish on those.

I didn’t stay long, I saw some very nice looking Collings F styles but I didn’t dare touch them in my current state of mind. I went home, picked up the MT2, and I don’t know what it is, but it sounded pretty nice again. Must be a combo of humidity, my variable right hand, age of the strings, and the alignment of the Stars. I’ve been going back and forth with this instrument since the day I bought it.

Appreciate you sharing your opinion with us about the Northfield. I’ll probably run across one sooner or later to test drive. Your Collings MT2 is a great mandolin, too bad you’re on the fence with the tone. I’ve felt the same way with some guitars I’ve owned, going back and forth with them. Truth is I could be perfectly happy with any one of my guitars but I’m always on the hunt for something I like a little more. There’s a lot of great instruments on the market today and I’m scared of missing out on one! :laughing:

— Begin quote from "Bulldog"

There’s a lot of great instruments on the market today and I’m scared of missing out on one!

— End quote

I’m with you there. I’ve traded some instruments that I should have kept.

I’ve always been impressed with artists that have used the very same instrument for most or all of their career. It’s a part of their act… of them even and if they switched to a new instrument, I think it could cause an uproar with their devoted fans. I wonder if they have a stash of instruments at home they play while they’re not on the road, or if they are still devoted to that instrument.

Could you imagine the shock if Willie Nelson showed up for a gig without Trigger? Fans would probably start weeping uncontrollably.
I’ve always envied my older brother. We bought our first Martin guitars together years back. Since then I’ve gone through numerous other Martins before settling on my old HD-28 (I’ll always have a Martin in the stable). He’s always been faithful to his HD-28V and has never had a desire to play another guitar much less buy one. A match made in heaven I guess!

Old thread but Gruhn’s is about 40min from me. Favorite Saturday place to be when I should be… mowing, cleaning, running errand, trimming, servicing vehicles, vet visit for dog, etc…etc…etc. Billy is very helpful there. They have multiple selections of the newest Martins, Taylors…a wonderland. Just thinking about it makes me wanna leave work early.

Billy’s the best.

I haven’t been to the new location yet. I’m anxious to see it.

Oh I’d stay in trouble if I lived that close to Gruhn’s. Been to the old store a few times but haven’t made it to the new one. I’d like to check out Artisan Guitars in Franklin one day, heard it was nice.