Shop Talk: Retrofret Vintage Guitars, Brooklyn, New York

December 21st, 2012

Guitar Aficionado recently caught up with Retrofret Vintage Guitars at 233 Butler St., Brooklyn, New York.

GUITAR AFICIONADO: When did you open?

Roots of the business go back to 1973, but we’ve been in this location since 1983.

Coolest guitar you have in your shop right now?

We think they’re all cool, but a real standout acoustic would be Mario Maccaferri’s personal Selmer Harp Guitar from 1932 (which he kept his entire life!). Our favorite electric right now is a 1956 Les Paul Custom that came from the son of a traveling preacher who got it new as a gift from a congregation. It has an amazing vibe to it!

Rarest guitar you’ve sold?

Lefty Frizzell’s one-of-a-kind Bigsby-customized 1949 SJ-200, one of the real icons of country music history.

Any celebrity encounters at your shop?

All the time, but we don’t kiss and tell.

What guitar have you been looking for and haven’t been able to find?

Other than the Theremin cello, we’d love to get a Loar era L5 (We did examine a prototype, which unfortunately wasn’t for sale).

What makes your shop unique?

The private boutique experience is unique. Some shops have a high-end room tucked away in the back, but our entire showroom is a tucked-away high-end room!

If someone started playing “Stairway to Heaven,” what would you actually do?

Given our clientele, that would be such a novel experience it would probably just make us giggle.

What’s the most important part about matching up a customer with the right guitar?

We encourage our customers to try everything regardless of style or price point, because we know that often the “right” instrument may not have been the thing they thought they were actually looking for. Sometimes the right instrument finds you.

How much maintenance and prep do you do to the instruments for sale in your shop?

We have a full repair and restoration shop, so everything that goes out on the sales floor has been inspected, set-up, and any necessary repairs done. We don’t do any alterations to vintage pieces; we believe in a minimalist approach and focus on preservation of originality.

Anything else you want to tell us about the shop?

The one comment we hear the most often is that our showroom feels like a cool museum where the visitors are encouraged to play all of the instruments. Despite our semi-hidden location in a loft building, we pride ourselves on being welcoming and hospitable to every level of player and collector who comes through our doors.

For more information about Retrofret Vintage Guitars, visit To be featured in “Shop Talk,” email Anna Blumenthal in the Guitar Aficionado advertising department or call 646-723-5404.

  • billy

    looking for beatles guitars played by john n george . thasnks bill

  • David Liba

    I’ve got a Yamaha fg-340 acoustic guitar, that George played while vacationing in Goa, India (1984) Not documented….but it is the absolute correct model……The guitar has also been retrofitted with a piezo pickup to play electric….has volume and tone controls in the upper shoulder next to the neck…I have the original case,,,,the guitar is almost mint! plays like a dream….. $1200 Shipped

  • David Liba

    Billy: for the Yamaha FG-340

  • Kris Leopold

    Looking for ’62 Gibson B-45-12 SUnburst or Natural pin bridge

  • Fred

    These guys list items for sale and then when you call they tell you that the items have been sold and they haven’t removed the listing a definate bait switch, ….sad