3 decades and counting, Bizarre Guitar perseveres | nnbw.com
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3 decades and counting, Bizarre Guitar perseveres

John Seelmeyer

Greg Golden continues to show off his chops as a rock ‘n’ roll guitarist in the televised commercials for the Bizarre Guitar store he’s owned in Sparks since 1973.

But not many seconds into recent television spots, a couple of guitar-playing young women make the first of several appearances in the commercial.

Their appearance marks one aspect of a subtle change in the marketing of Bizarre Guitar, but the change has been enough to help the landmark retailer weather the recession.

Long known as the sort of store where touring rock ‘n’ roll musicians could find precisely the right screw to repair the pick guard on a guitar the store carries 150 varieties of drum sticks alone Bizarre Guitar has been cautiously widening its focus.

The effort requires some careful balance, says Shanda Golden, whose guitar-playing husband leads the Greg Golden Band when he’s not running Bizarre Guitar and its sister store next door, Bizarre Guns.

Take the store’s location near the corner of Oddie Boulevard and Sullivan Lane.

The neighborhood is one where visitors are careful to lock the doors of their cars, and it’s not the sort of shiny mall location that appeals to moms and dads who are shopping for a guitar for a teen.

But Mike Young, the store’s manager, says the scruffy location is important to the store’s image.

“This is a rock ‘n’ roll store,” says Young, “If it was all nice and clean-cut, no one would want to come down here.”

So Shanda Golden looks for other vehicles to deliver a message that Bizarre Guitar is equally accessible for well-scrubbed suburban consumers.

The young women in the television spots, for instance, help soften the edges of the store’s image, says Shanda Golden.

She got a feature about the store onto the local television program, “The Plush Life,” which fit rock ‘n’ roll guitars into a format that’s usually heavy on food, fashion and health.

And she’s taken every opportunity to emphasize that for all its rock ‘n’ roll attitude, Bizarre Guitar is a family-owned business that welcomes business from other families.

At the same time, Young has combined his career as drummer with long experience in retail to create a finely tuned experience for shoppers.

The store’s 12 employees all are experienced musicians, so Young backed up their expertise with a strong sales training program.

“It’s a business. Show business. And they get that,” says Young. “You have to be creative in the way you are doing business.”

The store does a growing business worldwide through its Web site, including rare electric and bass guitars priced well into the thousands of dollars.

The Internet extends a reach that’s already remarkably wide for a single-location retailer.

Young says the Sparks store routinely draws shoppers who make the four- or six-hour drive from California’s Bay Area and Central Valley in search of something out of the ordinary.

And Bizarre Guitar has a solid reputation among touring rock groups who come to the store to pick up a needed bit of hardware or gawk at the dozens of rare and vintage guitars behind glass in the store’s vault.

The store uses its relationships with big-name artists to create events that cement its reputation with musicians in the region.

A few weeks ago, for instance, veteran Megadeth musicians David Ellefson and Chris Broderick came by the store to provide performance demonstrations, sign autographs, and answer questions from ambitious young rockers.

But Young doesn’t allow the store’s staff to get so star-struck that they stray from the mission of Bizarre Guitar especially as the store battles its way successfully through the recession.

“We’re going to sell our way out of this thing,” he says.