A guitar shop with a ‘400-pound iPod shuffle’ coming to downtown Lawrence

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Used guitars, jukeboxes and other music memorabilia will be the focus of Guitarma, which plans to open in late August at 726 Massachusetts St.

Whether your dream is to be a rock star or simply to imitate The Fonz, there soon will be a downtown shop designed to appeal to you. A lifelong Lawrence resident has struck a deal to open a Massachusetts Street guitar shop that also will have lots of other music memorabilia.

“This shop has been a dream of mine since I came to terms that I wasn’t going to be a rock star,” said Casey Green.

He plans to open Guitarma (a combination of guitar and karma) at 726 Massachusetts St. by Labor Day. If you are having a hard time picturing the spot, it is the former Creation Station retail storefront that was most recently a Thai ice cream shop.

726 Massachusetts St, Lawrence, KS 66044

The shop will focus on selling a whole lot of used guitars, with an emphasis on electric guitars. So, it is easy to understand how it may appeal to wannabe rock stars. But Fonzie imitators? The shop also will sell old jukeboxes, which Green collects. As you may remember, the Fonz — a character on the “Happy Days” sitcom — had a trademark move of giving a jukebox a knock and getting it to play any song. (Actually, some of you may not remember, but now you have no excuse to be alarmed if a man in a leather jacket begins pounding on a jukebox and shouting song titles.)

Green doesn’t expect to sell a lot of jukeboxes, but the devices are part of a strategy to make the store welcoming to even nonmusicians. All the jukeboxes will be the old style — pre-digital music — that features lots of neon and many contraptions that grab and spin the little old 45-style records.

“They do exactly what they are designed to do. They draw the eye,” Green said. “There are so many people who don’t even know what a 45 is. I tell people it is interesting to see what a 400-pound iPod shuffle looks like.”

The shop also will sell a few vinyl records, amplifiers, and some rock-and-roll memorabilia. But guitars will be the main focus. Green said he plans to specialize in used guitars because that will allow the store to have a larger variety and keep prices down.

After having grown up as a music junkie in Lawrence, Green went on to work in the white collar business world. That never satisfied his desire to be part of the local music scene, and Green said he thinks a guitar shop may be a good vehicle to take advantage of what he thinks is a coming surge in people deciding to do more of their retail shopping locally.

“It feels in town like we are right on the cusp of a little bit of a retail renaissance,” Green said. “I think more and more folks are interested in shopping local. Whether they are or not, is probably still up for debate.

“But it is hard to order something like a guitar online without being able to get your hands on it. Two instruments just one serial number apart will sound different based on the wood. A guitar is something you have to hold and connect with.”

Green also said the decision to open the store is a part of a midlife plan he’s long had.

“My midlife crisis plan always has been to open a guitar store or get into the nonprofit world,” Green said.

He’s hoping to do a little bit of both. The store’s tagline is “Turn On, Tune Up, Give Back.” The give back portion involves plans to donate a portion of the store’s sales to a local charity at the end of the year. Green said the percentage and the charity are still to be determined as he gets a better feel for the business. He said he’ll likely end up asking the public for suggestions on charities to donate to, and create some type of contest out of it.

In other news and notes from around town:

• While I wouldn’t suggest wearing a leather jacket while doing it, some specialized clothing can be useful for yoga. Look for a new retailer in downtown to begin tapping that market. Well, it is kind of a new retailer. The athletic apparel chain Lululemon is opening a pop-up store — a phrase that describes a store designed to be open for just a few weeks — in downtown. The is the second year that the company has opened one in downtown Lawrence. Just like last year, the store will be at 714 Massachusetts St., which is the former home of White House Black Market.

It is probably concerning to some that the White House Black Market spot is still available for Lululemon to operate a pop-up store. That means the prime retail space has been empty for at least a year. But yoga fans are the beneficiary. The company got started as a yoga clothing supplier, but now sells all types of shorts, T-shirts, Spandex gear and other items geared to people who exercise. But it continues to tout its yoga beginnings, and I believe, has some in-store yoga sessions.

According to a sign in the window, the store will open in August.

• You’ve maybe seen construction work underway in the former Jackpot Saloon building at 943 Massachusetts St. That is not a sign that a new business is on the way. Evan Holt, the commercial real estate agent who is listing the building, told me the work is being done to improve the interior appearance of the space, while he continues to seek a tenant.

But Holt did say the space is drawing interest. He said the interest is coming from people interested in bar and restaurant concepts. The space is one of the few that is grandfathered in as a true bar operation. It does not have to meet the minimum food sale requirements that new liquor license holders have to meet in downtown. As a result, it has been a true bar in the past. Holt, though, said he thinks there is a chance that some operators may want to add food sales to the location too. I’ll let you know if I hear more.


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