Dec. 08--For musicians, few comforts match a hometown guitar shop.
Flanked on all sides by pristine instruments begging to be played, it's a refuge and haven. It's where gear heads come to get their fix, where fledgling musicians are exposed to new ideas and a place to meet others with similar interests. Bands are formed, arguments are resolved and teeth are cut.
In an era when big box stores and Internet shopping threaten the intimacy and personality these stores offer, Shomaker Guitars still is going strong.
"This is basically still a cool, rock 'n' roll shop," owner Kim Shomaker said. "It's an old breed that I want to keep alive. You're treated like someone when you come here."
For more than a quarter-century, the downtown Burlington store has kept the local talent tuned and supplied. New musicians still are trained there by Shomaker and four instructors. Shomaker also does a large amount of repair work when axes need a tune-up. The business also offers sound technician services and equipment.
The business began with a notion brothers Kim and Sam Shomaker tossed around in the mid-1980s. In 1987 -- amid the boom of MTV, big hair and squealing guitar solos -- Shomaker Guitars opened its doors at 912 S. Main St.
"It just seemed like everything snowballed," he said.
Things have been rolling ever since.
Kim Shomaker came into this world at just the right time to absorb the birth of rock 'n' roll and the blessings bestowed by its surnamed guitar gods: Hendrix, Clapton, Page and Beck. He shares his birth year, 1954, with the Fender Stratocaster.
At 8 years old, he bought his first guitar on money saved from his paper route. Shomaker took notes as Motown gave way to the British Invasion in the early '60s. Hard rock, Southern rock, country rock, progressive rock, heavy metal and the ever-splintering subgenres of rock 'n' roll followed.
He formed and played in bands and made the regional circuit. He still plays shows, currently with the Harvey Dalton Arnold Blues Band.
"Burlington is a hot-bed for musicians. It's always been that way," Shomaker said, pointing to the number of venues showcasing local music.
When he began, cozy, hometown shops like Shomaker Guitars were the only places most people bought instruments. The Internet changed that like it did everything else. So he expanded to sales on the business' own website, www.shomakerguitars.com, and maintains an eBay store.
But Shomaker Guitars still thrives on word-of-mouth and its reputation, Shomaker said. He said he prides himself on running a professional guitar shop that covers all the bases.
In addition to Shomaker, Chris Reed, Rudy Mullins and Tony Natalizio teach guitar and other stringed instruments. Jeremy "Big Jerm" Thomas gives drum lessons. About 160 students regularly take lessons there.
"They're fantastic teachers and great guys. And they all play actively. I think that's important for kids to see," Shomaker said. "I think kids still need somewhere to go, to see each other and play together. It's how they learn."
Store manager Steve Hill does sound engineering and lighting work.
Shomaker himself has a keen interest in vintage guitars. He appraises and researches vintage instruments and knows how to repair them.
"Back in the day, everything was vintage," he said, smiling.
Most of his time is spent refurbishing and repairing professional musicians' electric and acoustic instruments.
And of course, the store sells a variety of new and used guitars, amplifiers and parts. Shomaker Guitars is a licensed Fender dealer and an authorized Marshall dealer.
"It should be a good feeling to be here, Shomaker said. "We want everyone to feel welcome here."
Shomaker Guitars is at 912-A South Main St. in Burlington. Its holiday-season hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Lessons are $20 per half hour. Visit shomakerguitars.com or call (336) 222-8282 for more information.
(c)2013 Times-News (Burlington, N.C.)
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