What started as a home business on a kitchen table in Ravenna has turned into an interesting music shop experiment in Kent.
"We're a guitar store that sells beer," said Ohio Music Shop co-owner Jeff Fulkman. "Woody wanted to own a guitar store, and I wanted a bar," he added.
Fulkman is refering to partner Woody James, the store's certified in-house luthier and driving force behind the business's creation.
James has his own signature line of custom guitars as well as his own line of handwired effects pedals, called Old School Effects pedals. He has done custom work on guitars for more than 25 years.
James and Fulkman join Steve Herman and Paul Hess in the ownership duties of the store, located in the heart of downtown Kent at 118 E. Main St.
The owners are grizzeled veterans of the music industry who have come together for the common goal of creating a music store dedicated to people who love to play music.
"I wanted a store for guys who play a lot, who gig," said James. "So they have a place to come to."
Everyone from the beginner to the seasoned music professional is welcome and appreciated by these music men.
The store sells new and used equipment, hosts free live music multiple days a week, repairs equipment, sells beer, performs music lessons, offers practice space, and honestly attempts to answer all those music questions anybody might have.
The store strives to have a low key atmosphere — to be there for the customer but not be in their face.
"We're musician friendly," said Hess. "We'll leave you be, but if you have a question we're there to try and answer it."
The owners have been playing music for the majority of their lives, so they have a wealth of knowledge to pick from. They grew up locally and played in bands in Kent.
"I've lived the lifestyle my whole life, music and electronics," said Herman. "I like musicians hours." He also noted that he started playing keys when was 6 years old was working in bands in the mid 1960s.
James's Kent past includes playing together in the band the Measles with local legend and international star Joe Walsh.
Being a part of the music scene in Kent and touring throughout the country has given the owners a chance to gain wisdom and meet many music professionals.
James has built friendships, and repaired or rebuilt guitars and bassses for many big name performers in the music industry, including Joe Walsh, Ted Nugent and Todd Rundgren.
In addition to his guitar prowess, James has built electronics and effects equipment for the likes of Crosby-Stills-Nash-Young (CSNY), Elliot Easton, Earl Slick and Gilby Clarke.
James's specialty, and impetus for building his own equipment, is the love of a vintage sound from the 1960s and 1970s. He believes digital music has now turned that sound sterile.
Re-creating an authentic version of the vintage sound is ultimately what set in motion the birth of the Ohio Music Shop in 2006.
Back then, a few of the store owners were still busy performing about 100 shows a year. James was building the hand-wired Old School Effects pedals on a kitchen table, then he and other musicans would use the electronic magic of pedals to bring back the vintage sound.
But it wasn't enough.
James and the other store owners, as well as other musicians they knew, were spending thousands of dollars on acoustic and electric guitars and basses that weren't truly what they wanted.
What they really desired was stringed instruments that could create the vintage sounds they grew-up surrounded by and loving. Unfortunatly, they were forced to buy what was available on the existing market, then rebuild or rig the instrument to try to make it sound right.
Their desire for a brand new guitar with a vintage sound led to the creation of the Woody James line of acoustic and electric guitars and basses.
It also led to moving the now burgeoning business off the kitchen table and into a store front in downtown Kent.
During that time, James was building effects pedals and guitars, as well as repairing equipment with some assistance from Fulkman.
"We were content in making guitars in the house and selling them to guitar stores," said Fulkman. "We were going to go store to store to sell them, then the guitar store could sell them to the end user. But we couldn't get our guitars a presence in Kent, so we found a small place downtown."
Fulkman said James was walking down Main Street in 2010 and saw an empty store front and decided that was the place to set up a shop to sell his guitars.
Not only did the guitar sales take off, but they immediately became so busy with special requests and repairs they had to find a bigger location.
"There was no space over there, we were doing repairs in the store front," said Fulkman.
They didn't have to move far, as they found a new location just a few doors down on the same downtown block. They moved into the new space only three months after originally finding a store front.
The current location was formerly used by Key Bank. What used to be a long stone counter of teller windows now serves as the bar, a work station and retail sales location.
The space has a raised stage, lighting, sound system and several rows of upholsterd movie theater seats gathered from an old cinema in Missouri.
The stage hosts free live music every week. Monday is a singer/songwriter night, Tuesday is live jazz, Thursday is open mic with Randy Horvath and the weekends feature various types of live performance styles.
All the music on stage appears on u-stream.com, streamed live on the internet.
They sell draft and bottled beer, soda, energy drinks, snacks and delivered sandwiches from Franklin Square Deli.
The shop continues to work to be involved more in the community, with coordination with downtown events, as well as Kent State University events. They hosted a packed house and several performers for the recent Kent State Folk Festival.
"We are a guitar store, slash, entertainement venue," said Fulkman. "We're just trying to maintain an old school, classic attitude."
Some of the owners still perform an active schedule of live shows themselves. They were in the popoular CSNY tribute band, Ohio, for six years, and now perform in a Neil Young tribute band, Reil Young.
"We're a bunch of old hippies that never grew up," Fulkman said.
"This is our retirement," James said.