Nineteen years ago in 1994, at the age of nine, Matt Chulka, who has been at Eddie’s Guitars for nine years, was still sneaking into his older brother’s room to play guitar.
Anyone else guilty of this? [My hand is up.]
When Matt drove the forty-five miles from his hometown of O’Fallon, MO into St. Louis and walked into Eddie’s Guitars back in 2004, he was looking for a boutique amplifier he’d read about on line. What he found was a remarkable array of electric and acoustic guitars and gear, carefully selected to serve musicians, not just to flesh out the inventory.
The owner, Ed Putney, was behind the counter.
A musician all his life, in the early 1970s, Ed began working in a local music shop, after completing what he refers to as his “military obligation.”
Within a year, “the shop owner, Ray Hunsicker, asked if I’d like to go into business with him. I agreed…I worked with Ray for 10 years before he retired.” In 1999, Ed moved the shop and, with his son Nathan, reopened it as “Eddie’s Guitars.”
On impulse, Matt asked, “You guys hiring?” Turns out, a guy had just left.
Matt has been pairing players with instruments every since. When I asked how he went about it he answered me with questions of his own:
“What is a player trying to accomplish? What do they play? How do they play? Do they have a favorite body style, string length, neck profile? What do they hope to play?”
Not uncommon questions, but at Eddie’s they try to zero in on the answers to these sorts of questions by using the experience of the players themselves. On their website, they suggest you make an appointment to work one on one with someone like Matt.
“Try this one.” “Try this one.” “What do you like about it?” “What don’t you like? Anything here less than ideal? Is it fighting you?”
Eddie’s carries a wide range of guitars under one roof. They aren’t pushing one guitar line over another. They are serving their community of players and hoping to send someone home with an instrument that they’ll never finish playing. And they are apparently doing it very well.
“Our business plan was simple,” Ed told me. “Sell high-quality American-made guitars and amps.”
“We quickly realized that going to an appointment basis would allow us to give the customer one-on-one attention and help them feel confident that they’d made an educated purchase that they could feel good about…We are privileged every day to work intimately with talented and creative artists, musicians, and luthiers.”
Trust is important in this shop. It’s not a traveling circus; they aren’t going anywhere.
Eddie’s is an important part of the vibrant community of players, musicians, and luthiers that it serves. Matching guitarists to guitars, listening to players and responding with suggestions based on years of experience are the selling points for the shop itself.
When it’s done right, the guitars sell themselves. And everybody wins.
Recently, Matt remarked, “I have players who will contact me and send me the money for a particular make and model of guitar. And they’ll say, “Here’s the dough. When you get one of these that you know I’ll like – not necessarily the first one in the door, but one you know I’ll like – send it to me.”
This is powerful evidence that at Eddie’s, they are doing something right.
-- Scott Ainslie
St. Louis, MO