The city of Hoboken, New Jersey is a part of the New York metropolitan area located on the Hudson Waterfront. It’s also home to what could be considered one of the most fascinating guitar stores known as the Guitar Bar.
Owner and founder James Mastro is a well-known musician in his locality and has worked with the likes of The Bongos (which is perhaps what he is most known for), Ian Hunter, Patti Smith, John Cale, The Jayhawks, Robert Plant and others. Mastro still records and tours to this day. Him and his staff are generous in sharing their expertise and knowledge with customers who walk through their doors.
The Guitar Bar offers new, used and vintage instruments, amplifiers and effects pedals. They also provide instrument repairs, music lessons for all ages (their teacher roster is largely made up of working musicians) and sponsors the annual World Record Attempt for The World’s Largest Rock Band in Sinatra Park, where hundreds of musicians gather together to play.
Touring musicians almost invariably drop in at the Guitar Bar, including AC/DC’s Angus Young, who Mastro sold an SG to.
Guitar Bar was founded in 1996 in a 100-year-old flower shop. Mastro chose to keep everything as is, which is partly what gives it such a unique and timeless vibe.
In 2010, they added a second location uptown called Guitar Bar Jr. Guitar Bar Jr. also offers lessons for all ages and various instruments and supplies. Karyn Kuhl’s LITTLE ROCKnROLLERS kids group classes are hosted at Jr. as well.
In 2015, they opened Guitar Bar Drum Den in Jersey City Heights, which offers the same great products and services as the Guitar Bar along with percussion and accessories as well. Now the whole band can find what they’re looking for in just one store.
Lessons From Guitar Bar
Don’t think there’s anything you can learn from James Mastro’s Guitar Bar? Think again. There are plenty of great lessons for musicians contained within Mastro’s business.
First, Mastro’s example shows that a business doesn’t need to tie you down. If you want to record and tour, you still can. Guitar Bar’s teachers, in fact, are encouraged to do so, and Mastro thinks that gives them more credibility.
Second, setting yourself up in a smaller town or city could be to your advantage. Hoboken is populated by a mere 50,000 people, which made standing out from the crowd less of an undertaking. In a city with plenty of competition, it could have been a different story.
Third, you can start exactly where you are. Mastro may have turned a 100-year-old flower shop into a guitar store, but ultimately, he kept everything as is, including the fixtures. It’s easy to become obsessed with what you need or what you don’t have before you get started on a project, but how about working with what you’ve got?
Finally, sponsoring events can give your business additional exposure. As a musician, you may not be sponsoring events, but you should always be on the lookout for strategic partnerships that can benefit your career.