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Music Box 5.14.14
JACKSON, WYO – Music Box 5.14
Guitar shop fills niche
Last November, Melody Creek Guitars opened its doors in Jackson after part-time JH resident Karen Langenberg and newcomer Jack Hoagland spent a year packing up Hoagland Brothers Guitar Shop in Pickerington, Ohio. Considering that 90 percent of their business had been online (60 percent exported), the plan was an Internet business in Jackson. But the absence locally of a dedicated guitar shop, combined with some local encouragement, persuaded them to make a go of it as a retail space.
Melody Creek Guitars specializes in custom electronics for electronic guitars (including in-house, hand-wound pickups) and maintains stock parts for building your own guitar, either in-house or DIY. From the perspective of a guitar enthusiast that loves dialing-in guitar tone, this sets them apart from the typical one-stop music shop.
But they excel there as well, providing products that have not been readily accessible to Jackson consumers in the past few years.
Planet Jackson Hole: Jack, how did you get into making custom pickups and building custom guitar setups?
Jack: I’ve been winding pickups for about 15 years. I learned to play guitar in 1966, and after playing in bands in and after high school, all of the guitars disappeared out of my life for quite some time. Years later when my daughter was young, she decided that she wanted to learn guitar. Turns out she was a lefty, so I purchased a cheap right-handed guitar and converted it to be a lefty. When I set that setup, it made me want to own a decent guitar of my own but I didn’t want to buy one because I was curious about how an electric guitar really worked.
Ebay was new at the time. I was building my own Gibson Les Paul and got down to the wiring and realized that there’s no company that makes good wiring for do-it-yourself. I had a local Ohio shop do the work for me, and they charged $135 for the same $29 wiring harness that I could have bought online. It was sloppy work and that really irritated me. I got out a pencil and paper, sketched out a plan, and spent $22 on parts and a $9 soldering iron to make my own harness.
In an effort to recoup what I had spent on parts, I made another wiring harness and put it up on Ebay for $45. By accident, I listed that I had 100 for sale. In no time, I had sold $800 worth. It was the beginning of financing my own guitar habit. I began searching out and reading everything I could find about the process. Now, I make between 70 to 80 harnesses. In two years, I went from a $22 investment to $18,000 in inventory.
JH: There have been a few music shops come and go over the years. What convinced you that a retail music/guitar shop is viable in Jackson?
Jack: The more we talked to local musicians, the more encouraged we became. One day we were downtown in July last year and went into Stio. Steve Sullivan, the owner, happened to be there. I told him the plans of starting an Internet-based guitar shop instead of a retail store. He sort of went off on us and said, “No, no, you have to open a retail store! I have guitars that I take to Idaho Falls to get worked on, and there’s a million other guitar players that would appreciate it.”
PJH: Have you had enough traffic and feedback to make a sustainable business?
Karen: We’ll see. People are saying, “We’re so glad you are here.” But we don’t know. Ultimately, it’s based on the local demand.
Jack: We’re not naive to think that everyone’s going to pay a little more here to buy a guitar here instead of Guitar Center. Our outlook on keeping the retail shop open in the long term is through local service and our Internet business.
Karen: We also have begun renting small PAs [sound systems], and that’s already been used a couple of times. We’ve been able to connect musicians, connect teachers to people searching out lessons, and so the word of mouth and back-and-forth has also allowed us to be a community resource. The idea is that we can be nimble and tweak the business as we go.
Melody Creek Guitars, 1100 South Park Loop Drive. melodycreekguitars.com