Dolly…….. Yes, that Dolly, Dolly Parton of course. Over the forty-eight years that I had my guitar store here in Greenwich Village we were visited by thousands and thousands of people of all kinds, with literally hundreds of them having been well-known stars of the music world and all other parts of the entertainment business. My first store was on Bedford Street, a small, out-of-the way place, only a few blocks long, mostly residential and with a few 150-year-old houses on it, and only one or two other retail spaces. You sort of had to know about us in order to know about us; we were a 99% word-of-mouth place to be sought out. We had mostly older guitars (no one used the word “vintage” back then), and new Martins, the only new instruments we carried. Due to our reputation for the top-quality repairs I had been doing for years before opening the store, sought-out we were, by local musicians as well as famous stars of stage and screen alike. People like Bob Dylan and George Harrison and many more of that caliber were known to occasionally drop in unannounced. Among all of them, one of the standouts was Dolly Parton. Sometime in the mid-1970s David Gahr, the well-respected photographer of musicians in our arena, came by with Dolly, for whom he was doing a photoshoot around New York that day. Dolly was a huge star in country music though not too much beyond in those years, but she was a great hero to us. I am happy to say that she was as gracious and friendly as her reputation has come to be known. And she impressed the heck out of us not only with her genuine warmth and charm, but with her obvious sharpness about, well, everything. She has since become known to be one of the most savvy people in the entertainment industry anywhere, as her rise in so many areas of it has shown. Dave Gahr shot several pics that day and sent me prints, all of which I still have. In the one shown here are Dolly, me and my good friend and assistant Doris Abrahams on either side of Dolly, and Rick Altman, then running the famous Folklore Center nearby.
Sometime in 1977, I was told about a retail space about to become vacant on Bleecker Street. Only just around the corner and two blocks away, but what a difference! Bedford was small, but Bleecker! Now that was the big time to me! The part of Bleecker between 6th and 7th Aves had been the shopping area for the local Italian-American community since the 1890s, and despite the Village having become a lot more “touristy”, in the 1970s there were still five bakeries, three butcher shops, two fish stores, a news stand, a children’s clothing store and more; very old-time New York. The place I got had been a sausage and cheese-malking store until the 1960s, later became a jewelry shop, and was about to be vacated. Seemed like a good idea and the price was right, so after eight years on Bedford I up and moved. What a difference! We had never carried much in the way of small goods, only instruments and a few types of strings
But…. literally while we were moving in to 276 Bleecker, still carrying in the guitars and the cartons, total strangers were stopping, asking for strings, books, everything. I could hardly believe it! Not being one to shy away from manna from heaven, I then started getting into all that other stuff. That, and acquiring more lines of new instruments. Up until then the only new guitars we carried were Martins, but business was exploding and off we went to the world of….Real Retail! Guild guitars, many brands of strings, capos, all of it. We had lots more space, enough to hire an extra repair person (in addition to myself), and so it went for another five years until……opportunity smiled on us once again. That storefront, at 276 Bleecker, was adjacent to the world-famous John’s Pizza which had been there, with its coal-fired ovens, since 1929. A MUCH larger space was about to become available right across the street, at 273 Bleecker. The folks at John’s knew the owner of that building and they wanted my space to expand into and so, one of those “neighborhood" deals was done. They got their extra space and I got a store that was triple the size of where I’d been for five years, and it even had an equal-size basement! Holy cow! And just like a gas that expands to fill all available space, so did my business. Filled it up with Taylor, Rickenbacker, Fender(!) guitars and more; amps, pedals, books, tons more brands and types of strings, and everything else we could stuff in there. And we had one heck of a good time doing all of it for the next thirty-five years, during which time I got access to the second floor, where we moved office space and our repair shop to. This increased our retail space, more than doubled our repair space, gave us room for three workbenches vs the one we had downstairs, and room for LOTS more guitars both for inventory and for the repair shop. It even gave us lunchroom/downtime space for the crew, which had grown to ten(!).
By 2017, after thirty-five years in this location and forty-eight years in the retail guitar business overall, I decided it was finally time to slow down some and close the walk-in store part of my business, though I’m still very much involved in selling fine guitars and their kin. It’s done via this website, and via emailings with new arrivals that I send out once a month or so to 10-12,000 of my closest friends, namely you, with fine instruments that are still coming to me for sale. And it’s all great stuff, thanks to all of you. To be added to the mailing list just email me at Matt@umanovguitars.com. And the restoration and repair shop is still going as strong as ever, still here on the second floor of the same building on Bleecker with its own entrance from the street. Open by appointment; just email me at…….. Matt@umanovguitars.com
I thank each and every one of you, old friends and new, for having given me the opportunity all these years to help you, in whatever way, to make music. After all, that’s what this is all about, making music. What I can be proudest of is having made so many people happier by providing treasured instruments, or all that little stuff you need, or the repairs to bring your guitar back to its best, or all of the above. And thank you Dolly, and everyone else who has ever graced us with your presence, both literally and virtually. And I’m so happy to know that I’m still doing it, every day.