Shop Spotlight: Stang Guitars in Edmonton

Before opening his own store, owner Tyler Stang managed Edmonton hot spot Avenue Guitars for 10 years. When Avenue's owner passed away a few years ago, he tried to buy the store but couldn't work out a deal. This left some space in the market for Stang to open his own shop in 2015.

While Stang Guitars has been open for only two years, they've already begun making a name for themselves with their highly curated selection of gear on display in their space that's as much art gallery as it is guitar store.

Whether it's a '30s Rickenbacker lap steel, a vintage Maestro Fuzztain, or one of the Masterbuilt Fenders, there's guaranteed to be at least one piece of gear on the wall that will make you do a double–take.

What made you want to make the jump from working in a shop to owning your own?

I always wanted to open my own guitar store. I wanted that store, I wanted to own Avenue. That was my life's ambition. The owner passed away, and his wife and I just couldn't come to anything resembling an agreement. She just wanted to sell off everything, which they're still doing.

That left a little opening in the market for me to get the brands I wanted. With her leaving the market, I got Fender, Taylor, Gibson, Music Man — the rights to carry the lines. I wouldn't have opened a store if I couldn't have Fender [chuckles].

Stang Guitars

So you've wanted to open a guitar store for some time, then.

Since high school. That's all I ever really wanted to do. I tried a bunch of other things, but none of them stuck.

What started this dream?

We were driving back to my hometown — which is about two hours away from Edmonton — when I was a kid, like 14. We stopped at a flea market, and I bought a box of guitar magazines for something to read on the way back.

I saw a picture of a 1964 Burgundy Mist Stratocaster, and that was that. That's what I wanted, I wanted to play guitar.

Everything kind of spawned off of that picture. I just got into guitar magazines super heavy, and I've always been gear–centric. I just always loved guitars. I've never lost my zeal for it, as some do in this business. Every day I just want to look at more guitars.

What would you say your store specializes in? What is Stang Guitars known for in Edmonton?

Stang Guitars

We're known for our store layout, which is completely unique. We're known for our extremely friendly, knowledgable staff. We try to make everybody feel welcome, nobody feel small. And we just try to have different guitars on the wall — the best guitars.

I live life one guitar at a time, so I really have to make sure each one is the best one I can put out. We try to hand–select as much as we can, we try to custom order what we can, we try to grab a unique colour whenever we can — again, hearkening back to my love of Fender custom colours.

Whenever I can get something in a colour that you wouldn't normally see, that's the colour I'm going to pick.

Do you have a favourite piece of gear that has gone through the store?

My favourite piece of gear that has gone through the store (and I'm not a pedal guy, so this is weird) was an original gold Horsie Klon that we had. If anybody didn't believe the hype or just thought it was all garbage or thinks their Tube Screamer sounds better, this thing would have proved them wrong. It was a magnificent–sounding piece of equipment.

There've been some tremendous guitars, too. Again, I'm a Fender Custom Shop guy, and every Custom Shop guitar we've had in the store I've hand–selected in California myself. It's worked out really well for us.

I've had some great guitars in, but as far as one piece that sticks with me that I probably should have hoarded, that Klon was one of them.

What's the experience of going down to California and handpicking guitars from the Custom Shop like?

There's nothing like it. My favourite part of this industry, my favourite thing to do, is the NAMM show.

Typically, there are two Fender dealer events a year, where they have a couple hundred guitars and then their kind of top indie dealers at that event, and then you get to go through and pick the ones you want. It's my favourite thing to do.

Stang Guitars

I take it way more seriously than any of the other people there because each guitar has to count and has to be the best one I get. I really take pride in it. I take an immense amount of pride in my ability to select guitars that I think people will want and that I'm proud to carry, to put out on the wall.

I've gotten to do it at Gibson, too, which was also phenomenal. It's the best thing. For somebody like me who just loves guitars so much, it's just a dream.

Do you have a favourite piece of gear in your inventory right now? There are some really interesting guitars, like this glow–in–the–dark Godin.

That thing is so cool. That's a Steve Stevens prototype. They made two, and Steve has the other one in that colour.

My relationships have been a big reason that we're where we are and that I even got this place opened — just the fact that I know all of these people. I take the time to meet all the different people from the different companies. These are my celebrities.

At the NAMM show, my celebrities are… it's not getting to meet Slash, it's getting to meet Seymour Duncan, or Robert Godin, or Abigail Ybarra, who wound the Fender pickups in the '50s. Things like that, that's what I love.

Godin Summit Classic HB Glow in the Dark

Fender Custom Shop '69 Telecaster Relic by Apprentice Master Builder Carlos Lopez

Probably my favourite piece that we have right now is a Masterbuilt Telecaster that I picked out last year at a Phoenix Fender event. It's what we call apprentice–built, so it's built by a guy named Carlos Lopez who hasn't become a full–fledged Master Builder yet.

I've always kind of liked the apprentice guitars because these people are trying to make a name for themselves, so you get these bizarre mixes of features that the more established guys wouldn't do because they're a little outlandish.

It's a chambered, ‘69–style Telecaster with a Bigsby and a bizarre, aged Ice Blue Metallic finish, where the lacquer has aged into green. It's an insane instrument. It's just so, so good. And the little gold foil–style neck pickup cover. It's got a screen cover on the neck pickup.

It’s a one–off, one of the first guitars he built. I got to talk to him about it, and we connected on social media about it. Just a great guy.

Pretty neat to meet the person who built the guitar you're buying.

I meet all the Master Builders. Our other Masterbuilt guitar is a Todd Krause, who builds Eric Clapton's guitars. Whenever Eric wants one, it's Todd who generally builds it.

Fender Todd Krause Masterbuilt 'Double Vision' Esquire

He just ended up at my table at one of these Fender events, and he was like, "Yeah, if you're into my stuff, you should probably get one pretty soon." His wait list is getting up to three or four years long, and he doesn't know how much longer he's going to be doing this.

One of his guitars became available, so I snatched it up. It's the Double Vision Esquire that we have.

Is there something specific you look for when hunting for gear?

Vibe. I have to like it right away. My staff gets on me a bit. They're like, "It doesn't matter if you like it. Is it gonna sell? Is there a customer for it?" And I'm like, “If I don't like it, I just don't care. I'm not staring at this thing on the wall for however long it takes.”

Sometimes I really have to quell that, or we'll end up with too many guitars with Floyd Rose tremolos on them.

It has to have some vibe, it has to excite me. I hate heavy guitars, so if I pick something up and immediately feel that it's too heavy, I'm probably not going to get it. And just something unique. If I have a story to tell, everything seems to go a lot better.

Your inventory certainly has a curated feel to it.

Thank you. I try to use that word whenever I can. We designed our space to show reverence to the instruments, and we treat it more like a gallery.

Stang Guitars - Unboxing a Fender Custom Shop 1964 Stratocaster Relic

Do you have a favourite band from Edmonton?

Jay Gilday, who's a singer–songwriter. Striker. I'm buddies with the Striker guys, and they're tremendous. The New Haunts, nêhiyawak — these are some of the newer bands. And bands that my staff are in I try to support as much as I can.

Do see your store as having a role in Edmonton's music community?

I really want it to, and we're trying to grow that. We have a stage in the store that we're trying to utilize more. It's just been logistics that we haven't [nailed down].

We'll never get a liquor license, so we're never going to be a venue, but we've had gigs in here. The stage was built mainly for clinics and demos, but I'd like to do more of that.

Just be the hub of where people want to come on a Saturday afternoon to talk guitars. You don't have to buy anything, just come sit on the stage, drink coffee, talk to your buddies about your pedalboard — things like that. I just want it to be the hangout, the meeting spot.

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