TIM BURNS w/ AVENUE N GUITARS

When did your fascination with guitars begin and Is it curable? I recall as a kid having an interest in guitars long before I knew how to play one. I have a vivid memory of dragging my poor mom into a music store and gawking at a hanging row of shiny new Gibson Firebird’s. There is a disease associated with guitar lust. It’s commonly referred to as GAS (guitar acquisition syndrome). So far I have not heard of a cure.

Do you still listen to the same players that turned you on as a kid?  Absolutely! You never quit learning from your mentors. It’s like watching a favorite movie 100 times and every time catching something you didn’t notice before. To this day I’m always fascinated listening to Jimmy Page, Brian May, Freddie King, etc.

What was the first guitar you ever owned? do you still have it?  Ok, disregarding the plastic banjo (prop) I had for my first public performance at around age 4, my first guitar was a lovely Hohner dreadnought, you know, the $99 variety. It had a skinny neck and never would tune properly. The coolest thing about it was the faux denim chip board case it came in. After all, it was the early ’70’s, baby. I gave that guitar to a student sometime in the late ’80’s. I was trading guitar lessons for kick boxing training.

It seems as if your timing and location were right on the money: how is Wicker Park treating you guys today?  Wicker Park is still one of the most vibrant and artistic communities in Chicago. I think we fit in here well. It has a great central location relative to the rest of the city. Good public trans., etc. Close to some good clubs, too. We see a lot of local and touring musician’s. Our starting time could have been better (right at the beginning of the economy bubble burst), but we’ve made the best of it.

How do you feel Avenue N Guitars is different than other musical equipment retailers in Chicago?  Certainly there are other great ma and pa music stores in the Chicagoland area, but, and this may sound cliche, I think the one thing that sets us apart is at the heart of it, we really do care about music and the people that make it and play it. Our main goal is to support that. We don’t have any gimmicks here, no slick sales pitches. We stand by everything we do. It also doesn’t hurt that we have a long and intimate history with vintage guitars and that market not to mention our guitar and amp service dept’s are one of the best kept secrets in Chicago.

How do you turn a walk-in new customer into a repeat offender? Again, by expressing our concern, going that extra yardage and providing the best customer service we possibly can.

How has the internet, ebay and the like impacted the guitar biz over the last decade? Huge impact. eBay has made a big dent in competition for small retailers. On the other hand it is useful for sales and a handy price comparison tool. Having a website can also be a great sales tool even if only used as advertising. A lot of people have developed retail businesses solely on eBay and websites. The ones that hustle have done very well although ebay sales have slipped over the last few years with the economy the way it is. Overall, the internet has been a game changer and mostly for the best, however, it’s not without negatives for small retailers. For example, it’s nearly immpossible to compete with corporate giants such as GC who not only sell on their own websites at grossly discounted prices (because that can buy from vendors in bulk at great discounts), but also sell on other internet sites they own as well such as American Music Supply, Music 123 and Musician’s Friend to name just a few.

Who do you think are making the best new electrics on the market today? any hot tips? The best new electrics, of course, come from the hands of custom builders and generally with a premium price. If we’re talking the big dogs (Gibson, Fender, etc.) and mass production, it’s hard to say. There has been a lot of scrambling going on it recent years. All the big companies keep producing more and more new models in every possible price point. In doing so, I feel they keep slipping further and further away from their roots as quality guitar makers. They seem to have no clue about their own history. Integrity and quality has long ago taken a back seat to profit margin. My question is this: if you are going to spend $3000 of your hard earned money on that Les Paul Custom you always wanted, would you buy the brand new plastic looking CNC machine made one or the cool old vintage one?

What’s is the strangest request you have received from a customer?  As a tip for good service, I once had a customer ask if I wanted to ‘light one up’ right at the front counter of the store. It was about one in the afternoon and the store was full of customers.

Should smashing guitars be made legal too?  For some guitars it definitely should be legal!

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