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Why we don't carry the big names

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One of the questions asked by customers visiting the store is: "do you have Fenders? Gibsons? Martins?" The answer is invariably "no, we don't". As much as it is not surprising for online stores - many online stores are focused on a handful of brands but have massive stock of them - it seems to bug a few people not to see these familiar brands. So, why we would do that?

Some will assume that we're a small store and we can't afford to get them. We're not that small, we have over 250 guitars on the floor and we can afford to go with any buy-in from these brands. Others will think that we're "boutique" and will go only for higher end instruments. Not totally true : we have student guitars under $200 and many guitars in the $400-$1000 range. Sure we have small workshop guitars over the $3,000 price mark, but that's a small part of our inventory. One also may think that we are snobs and don't want to see brands in our store. We sell Guild, Cordoba and Taylor, so we have no issues with brands. Still, why?

Answer is simple. When I started working on opening a guitar store, back in 2009, I visited over 50 guitars stores in California and France. It was right in the middle of the financial crisis, a lot of these stores were struggling. And when thing was constant: with massive buy-ins, very tight purchasing commitments and offer exceeding demand by far, the big names were not making it easy for independent stores. The other thing is that - visiting so many stores, from small mom and pop stores to mega chains - the walls were looking very much the same: 1 wall of Fenders, 1 wall of Martins and or Taylors, 1 wall of Gibsons ... and a couple of walls with a mix of other brands. 

Having traveled quite a bit in the last 20 years, I have see a trend: everything start to look the same. European downtown areas look more and more like a Mall, stores are the same, products are the same, coffee (did I stay Starbucks?) is the same... Even the music we have to endure in stores: "elevator DJ" music becomes the norm.  In Nature, variety if life, uniformity is death. I think for mankind it should be the same. Why would I like to see the same guitars everywhere? Hear the same sound? 

Now, I wouldn't mind to have a few Martins, Fenders or Gibsons in the shop. I'm no snob and all of these makers are making great guitars (and quite a bit not that great, a name is not making everything...) But if the rules of the game is to spread all over the walls, leaving no room for other type of makers to survive, then it won't work for me. And yes we're independent and relatively small: we can afford a massive buy-in but it can also kill us pretty quickly, it's a very unpredictable market. These buy-ins killed a couple of our competitors recently and will kill more. Taylor and Cordoba (who also owns Guild) give us a little more room to breathe, and we're very grateful for that!

So, if like us, you feel there should be room for diversity in guitar retail, if you feel you need places where you can try different things and that's there's more than a marketed name in an instrument, then you'll understand where we're going.

Thanks for reading!

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The Fretted Frog Acoustic Guitar Store

1414 W.Colorado Blvd - Pasadena - CA 91105 - U.S.A.

Phone: (1) (626) 844 5006

Open Monday to Friday - 11am to 7pm - Closed on Week-ends and Holidays

By appointement outside store hours (contact

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