May 26, 2018

THE HUB: Guitar Center strikes a chord in Williston

Jackson Garrow, 11, of Westford strums a chord at the Oct. 11 grand opening of Guitar Center in Williston’s Maple Tree Place. The Guitar Center chain, headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., is the world’s largest retailer of musical instruments. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

It was just about a year ago that Daddy’s Junky Music defaulted on its debt obligations and abruptly closed all of its New England stores—including a location in Williston’s Maple Tree Place.

On Oct. 11, music returned to 21 Hawthorne St. with the grand opening of the newest store in the Westlake Village, Calif.-based Guitar Center chain, the world’s largest retailer of musical instruments.

The push to open a Guitar Center store in Williston was led by store manager Paul Wilson, who formerly managed Daddy’s Junky Music in Maple Tree Place and reasoned that the location would still be associated in consumers’ minds as a guitar store.

“I was the strongest, if not the only, proponent for opening the store in this location,” Wilson said.

Wilson noted that the Burlington area is “really tight-knit in terms of musicians” and that all 30 of his employees are musicians.

“When you do a survey, all of these people are going to answer that music is the most important thing in their life,” Wilson said. “This is the connection that we make with our customers.”

Maple Tree Place had a large police presence at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11, as customers lined up around the block and were granted entrance in batches of 25 for the grand opening of the nation’s 237th Guitar Center. It was christened by the performance of an Elvis impersonator, who belted out the King’s greatest hits as customers perused walls of electric axes, which range in price from a $100 Fender Mini Strat to a $3,500 Gibson 330.

Despite its singular namesake, Guitar Center has a large variety of musical instruments and equipment, including bass guitars, drums, bongos, cowbells, keyboards, microphones, amps and speakers. It also has a room dedicated to acoustic guitars and sections devoted to guitar repair and musical instruction.

Scott Benton, grand opening manager of Guitar Center Studios, which offers music lessons and rehearsal space, said Guitar Center is revolutionizing the industry by blurring the distinction between musical instrument sales and music instruction.

“We just want to help people make music,” Benton said. “We’re not just selling people the gear they need. We’re teaching them to play, as well.”

Wilson, a bassist who specializes in heavy metal and hardcore punk, reiterated that his business is run by musicians, for musicians.

“This is 100 percent a passionate people-based business,” Wilson said. “It’s really just about musicians hanging out with musicians.”

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