A reader seeks advice on where to seek out his next guitar of a lifetime.
I have a guitar-buying-vacation question. My girl has offered me a trip as a 65th birthday gift. If I flew to one spot anywhere in the US to test Martin OM’s before purchasing a second one, where would you suggest I go? I’d like to buy a second OM-28V (one that would be “enshrined” at home while my current OM-28V would continue to be played out in the harsh, cruel world). I realize that the OM-28V is no longer made, so I would consider other OM’s.
Rod in Portland, Oregon
Thank you, Rod, for your vote of confidence in my ability to answer such a question.
That would be my answer if I was offered the same opportunity.
I have no idea what if any guitar stores are there, but come on! A free ticket to Hawaii? Maybe you could be converted to the ukulele or Weissenborn-style hollow neck lap guitars!
I have never had an issue with ordering a guitar online without playing it. But I understand the appeal of seeking out guitars in person and seeing if one is the one.
It would be easiest for me to recommend New York City. I am familiar with the shops here, but also because there are so many of them, thereby increasing the odds of finding something that insists you take it home.
Mandolin Brothers is world famous for their selection, even if it is not what it was before the financial crisis and the untimely death of founder Stan Jay. But his family is busy beefing up their stock, including some cool Martins I hope to check out soon. They also offer the opportunity to play other brands that make OMs like Collings, Santa Cruz, Huss & Dalton, Bourgeois, and others, all under the same roof. And their high end room with the comfortable sofa usually has enough in the way of vintage Martins and Gibsons to keep things in perspective when seeking to spend money on a great guitar.
In addition to Mandolin Brothers, there is also Rudy Pensa’s shop, the acoustics being in their Soho branch, Matt Umanov’s in the Village, a flagship Sam Ash store on 34th street, one of the best stocked Guitar Centers in the country is on 14th St. And there are many other shops, including some semi-private used guitar boutiques like Retrofret (aka Musurgia.)
But you will likely find similar shopping opportunities closer to home. Most every major city as multiple shops dealing in high end guitars and almost all of them have Martins.
In Los Angeles there are several shops. I have done no personal business with them, but Ted and Helene at L. A. Guitars receive many thumbs up for service from various customers. There is also Westwood Music Center and MaCabe’s, and several others farther out into the greater city area.
A little closer to you is the San Francisco area. I know of no one who did not think it worth the effort to take the ferry up the bay to Tiburon for a visit to Schoenberg’s (whose web address is om28.com by the way.) But Gryphons Stringed Instruments is not far from there and both those shops offers a similar array as you might find at Mandolin Brothers.
Finally, for now, there is also Nashville, which is home to Gruhn Guitars and Cotton Music, just to name two shops with a reputation for their Martin collections, including special customs, etc. And with it comes all that music city mystique and places to visit.
Otherwise, from Massachusetts to Florida, San Diego to Houston to Lansing, there are worthy shops to be explored, but the larger cities just have more shops, typically, which broadens the selection.
Since you are hoping for a model that was a) very popular and hard to keep in stock, and b) has been replaced by the new OM-28, which is very similar except for the string spacing and narrower neck up the frets, it is likely you may not find an OM-28V new with warranty at any shop you visit. However, you may find some things that will provide all you seek and more.
I suggest you think about where you may want to go in broader terms, and then start researching the shops in that location. And make inquires closer to your visit, in case there is something you read about or hear over the phone that puts a particular shop or shops at the top of your list during your visit.
Congratulations, on the milestone, in your taste in women, and your future guitar of a lifetime!
And that is one man’s word on…