Hi Frank, thank you for taking your time to speak to us. Could you please tell as a little bit about Thunder Road Guitars? Where are you located?
Hello Vintage and Rare! Thunder Road Guitars is an online-based guitar shop by musicians for musicians. We buy, sell, trade and cosign guitars and amplifiers with folks all over the globe. We opened our doors January of 2012 and have loved every moment of it since. We are located in Seattle, Washington, USA.
What initially motivated you to set up a music store, and when was that?
I’ve worked in music shops since I was old enough to have a job and have always had a love and passion for great guitars. I have managed a well-known Seattle vintage guitar shop and have also worked for a US chain store. I learned a lot working for both companies and eventually decided to open my own store this January. My favorite thing about independent music stores is the “shop culture” – the things that happen day to day, the guitars that come in and go and the interesting folks you meet. I love it! At Thunder Road we try and give our customers that same experience online by offering great customer service and a very personal approach. I’m very hands on and if you are buying a guitar from us more than likely you will speak to me directly.
What has been the biggest challenge in setting up your shop?
The biggest challenge for me was to take this dream of mine and make it a reality. I’ve always dreamed of owning my place, but there’s a lot of risk involved when you start any new business. Like I mentioned earlier I have just opened my digital doors to the world, but so far so good.
In EU the current Gibson case “lacey act” has gotten a lot of attention, what is your perspective on shipping between US & EU? Have you had any problems regarding this case so far?
I’ve shipped a lot of guitars between the US and Europe in my time buying and selling instruments and I think it’s unfortunate that the “Lacey Act” has created the issues that it has. I’ve seen it scare off customers and make it harder for someone like myself or other dealers out there to share great Brazilian rosewood vintage instruments with customers around the globe. With that said, it seems that if you can provide proper documentation of your instrument and show that it was built before a certain time period then you will be fine shipping, or so I’ve heard.
Do you play music yourself? If so, what do you play, for how long have you been doing it?
I sure do. I started my first band at age eleven, before I could even really play guitar. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to play in two professional bands, put out records, tour the US for what seems like a million times, and also tour Europe. One time on tour with my band in Europe the border guards in Croatia didn’t want to let us in because we didn’t have work visas so we bribed our way in with CDs, T-shirts, and other merchandise. We ended up making it across the border and rocked a great show. I’ve had some pretty amazing experiences playing music. I am very grateful for my experiences and feel lucky for the opportunities I’ve been given through music.
What do you consider the biggest challenge for dealers of musical instruments today?
I would say the biggest challenge is also one of the greatest strengths, and that is globalization. When I first started working in this field the primary option someone would have would be to walk into a brick and mortar store to pick out a guitar. Now they have the entire world’s instrument supply at the click of a button. For us this has been a good thing because it allows us to connect with buyers worldwide, but it is also challenging because there is much more competition for sales.
How do you choose what products to carry?
I carry instruments that I like, plain and simple. I’m a big fan of American and import vintage guitars and amplifiers from the 50s, 60s, and 70s as well as modern custom shop instruments from Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gretsch, Marshall, Dr. Z, and Orange. Right now Thunder Road offers used and vintage instruments, but in the near future we will be expanding to include boutique guitars and amplifiers.
What role has technology (the internet, your website, etc.) played in the success of your business? Do you use social media channels to promote your business?
Technology is huge for us as we are an Internet based business. Without the huge role the Internet now plays in instrument sales it would have been much harder for Thunder Road to get off the ground. We use social networking as a source of promotion as well as a way to connect with our customers and keep them updated on new and exciting instruments we acquire.
Is there a general trend to the people who purchase from you, in terms of how skilled or experienced they are?
We sell guitars and amplifiers to folks all over the globe. Some touring musicians, some recording musicians, and some hobby rockers. The thing they all seem to have in common is a passion for great guitars. I love how into guitars my customers are and love talking with them about music, life, and instruments.
You are known for your dedication to providing a good customer service. What advice do you give to somebody looking to purchase an instrument from you?
Being a musician myself I would not want to carry or sell an instrument that I wouldn’t feel comfortable personally owning or playing. Being a business owner I want to give my customers the same experience I would expect from a guitar shop. We go to great lengths to get to know everyone who crosses our path, whether it is selling them something or a simple inquiry asking about a guitar. We want people to feel comfortable when they work with us and feel as though they’re getting a great guitar from a great shop.
Any famous last words?
I want to thank the fine folks at Vintage and Rare for this interview and thank you (the reader) for taking time out of your day to read about Thunder Road Guitars. Please check out our website: www.thunderroadguitars.com/
Airline H8396 – 1960s Sunburst
Gibson ES335 – 1965 Cherry Red
Gibson GA18T Explorer – 1960