Shop Spotlight: Guitar Studio Gothenburg

While visiting the Fuzz Guitar Show in Gothenburg, we popped into the city's own Guitar Studio for a visit.

This walls of this little shop are lined with player–grade vintage guitars and crammed with amplifiers. There's also a workshop in the back, where owner Patrick Holland repairs and sets up every guitar that comes through the door.

We wanted to get to the heart of why exactly Guitar Studio feels so distinct from other vintage guitar shops, so we sat down with Patrick to talk over where his shop fits into the market and what the future holds for Guitar Studio.

How did Guitar Studio get started? What were you doing beforehand and what inspired you to start a vintage guitar shop?

I started Guitar Studio five years ago. I’d worked in guitar stores since the age of 15, first in Dublin and later here in Sweden where I’ve lived since 2003.

I’ve always bought and sold guitars but back when I started, the market for used gear was limited mainly to newspaper ads and trade–ins. This was obviously pre–internet, and the subsequent change to box–shifting and lower profit margins on new products has forced many great small stores to close.

When I opened Guitar Studio, the idea was to have an equal share of select new and used gear and to maintain a strong online presence. Over the last five years, however, we have consistently been able to source and sell generic secondhand guitars and amplifiers alongside quirky and higher–end vintage pieces, while the interest we see in new, mid–range products appears to be in decline.

The only exception to this might be the few major brands whose new products have become inaccessible to smaller stores like Guitar Studio. But, in a lot of cases, the secondhand prices for these instruments sometimes get close to overtaking the current street pricing. The secondhand market is still growing, putting us in a pretty strong position in both our local standing and our online presence.

What’s the music scene like in Gothenburg? How does having the Fuzz Guitar Show in your backyard affect things?

Like most European cities, there are lots of bands, styles, and plenty of guitarists in Gothenburg. We usually see an increase in visitors during the days around the Fuzz Guitar Show, and it's encouraging to be visited by guitar builders and smaller brands who just want to say hello and tell you what they’re doing.

I think they’re all pioneers for future gear in general, and it's exciting. The fact that we are a young and independent store is, I am sure, encouraging for them as well.

How important is it for a shop like Guitar Studio to be connected to the rest of the world via selling online?

If customers aren’t recommended to us by a friend or through word–of–mouth, most of our sales and repair traffic is generated online.

Nowadays, people like to try to find the types of guitars that maybe they had owned, wanted, or saw advertised when they were younger. They can now scour the internet to realise that nostalgia. We have seen this many times, and I recognize the guitars that will generate this nostalgia as soon as they come in. I am always looking for these lesser–known or more interesting guitars.

The amount of killer vintage gear you cram into that cosy shop is incredible. Could you tell us about some of the most notable pieces that have come through the doors?

I have managed to save instruments that were literally on their way to the dump on a few occasions. We sold a refinished ‘50s Les Paul that nobody else would touch. I had just provided a valuation for a similar guitar with the original finish, and I was able to compare the two and authenticate the refin and other details on the instrument that we were selling.

Many great guitars and amps with a story to tell pass through our workshop as well. We recently had one of James Burton's Teles on the bench, and I am currently trying to validate a 1980s Max Guitars Les Paul clone (a la Appetite for Destruction) that we have. We'll see how that goes.

Given that the workshop is such a big part of Guitar Studio, what’s your philosophy regarding setting up vintage gear? Are you trying to restore it to how it would have been new, or are you focused on small improvements in playability so as to match modern instruments?

The customer always decides regarding repairs. I try to find out as much as possible from them regarding their expectations and then offer a few alternatives before we do anything. Playability is foremost — even with a vintage instrument — but there are limitations, usually due to the original construction and design.

I try to avoid snobbery regarding guitars in general, but obviously we don't want to make decisions to change features that would harm the value of an instrument we are going to sell.

Guitar Studio

What’s next for Guitar Studio?

We have just made major changes to our shop space to maximise the room we have for guitars and amplifiers and have also expanded our workshop again, which is busier than ever.

We are currently sourcing more gear, and when our renovations are complete, we will be equipped to turn around more guitars online. I just hope to be able to have a chance to list them before they’re snapped up in our store. I expect to see a few oddballs along the way!

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