Our Original Sign
The Sign. That sign. It hung in the window of my first store, at 35 Bedford Street here in The Village, from about 1970 until I moved to 276 Bleecker Street in 1977, across from where I’ve been since 1982, at 273 Bleecker. When Susie Ruskin and I decided to open our store, in 1969, a sign was about the furthest thing from our minds. We were into doing what we loved while having tons of fun doing it, and the business just grew from the long list of people for whom I’d been repairing and restoring guitars for years. The entire staff consisted of Susie doing most of the sales and me doing the repairs. We eventually enlisted the help of a few friends to assist with sales and such, and after not too long some in repairs too, partly because so much was coming in and partly because we needed more help than we thought we might. Joining us in selling at various times were Doris Abrahams and Erik Frandsen, both of whom I’m still in touch with, and in repairs were Steve Warshaw and Eddie Diehl. Eddie being there is where the sign comes in.
Eddie was a well-respected jazz guitarist, had been on the New York scene since the late 50s and for extra dough, which jazz musicians always seem to need, he supplemented his income with guitar repair, most notably with absolutely fabulous fret work. I knew Eddie from a few years prior, when I was solely a repair person, and was, for a short while, doing my repair work on the premises of Danny Armstrong’s store on La Guardia Place nearby. (Stay tuned to future News Letters for more on Danny, a hugely under-appreciated giant in our world of guitars). Eddie and Carl Thompson were Danny’s repair staff, and after Danny closed his place both Eddie and Carl freelanced. When Eddie came to me for work I was thrilled to have him, and this continued for several years. One day Eddie, who was also a very talented graphic artist, presented me with a surprise: the sign you see here. It had never occurred to me to have any kind of sign at all, as the number of people coming to us by reputation and word of mouth was more than enough, but how could anyone say no to a piece like what you see here? Eddie also had quite a sense of humor, for instance in the mention of “Guitars, Banjos, Mandolins, Ukes, Gitanjolins, Tubas, etc”. Giitanjolins didn’t exist, was a word made up by Ed; Motorcycles, well I had one or two in there at various times; Tubas, I don't think so. The two extended fingers was a bit of Eddie's humor, a take on the old store signs with an index finger pointing to the door. We never did get around to hanging it outside so we put it in the window, hanging from a steam pipe, and there it shone for years. Thing is, you could only see the fabulous other side of it if you came in; that never occurred to us either.
The pictures you see below were taken at interesting and I guess important moments, two of many in the long history of our store. The one of a bunch of us standing outside, with The Sign showing in the window, was taken by Dave Gahr, the most noted photographer of the folk scene in the 1960s and yet another dear friend. Dave just happened to be passing by that day and insisted on everyone who was there pose for a photo. In the pic are……….Top row, left to right: Ivon Schmukler, a guitar maker and dear friend to this day; Stuart Lupescu, husband at the time of Peggy Haine, who is standing, holding a guitar, at the far right. Peggy’s another dear friend since forever, known for the last forty years or so as a Major Character in Ithaca, New York; Steve Warshaw, aforementioned repair person, still doing it today in New Hampshire; yours truly, with all that hair; no idea who this is, just happened to be there at the time; Peggy. Kneeling at left, holding guitar, is Bob Kaminsky, another great friend to this day, among whose achievements have been being one of creators of the Mark Twain Award for humor; holding our cat is Susie Ruskin, my wife at the time and whose idea it really was to start that whole store thing in the first place; Mark Krantz, Bob Kaminsky’s lifelong friend, who went on to, among other things, manage the Lone Star Cafe here in the Village, for those of you who remember that great honky-tonk.
The other photo, taken in about 1967-8, is a snapshot taken at my own workbench during the time that Danny Armstrong so graciously offered me space to run my own repair business in the workshop area of his store, when I briefly had nowhere else to go,. In the pic, Danny is holding, with me looking on, the very first prototype I had hand-built for Danny of the now-legendary Plexiglas guitar he had designed. (Once again, stay tuned to future Newsletters right here on my homepage for a story about this guitar). This photo was taken by Carl Thompson, who gave it to me many years later, and I include it here because standing in the background is the one and only Eddie Diehl. Who later on made The Sign. And who also deserves a lot more credit in our world of guitars than he ever got. Eddie passed away in 2017.
I saved that sign for the last forty-two years, since we took it down when moving on from Bedford Street in 1977. Still have it, will never part with it.