Guitar Center Coming to the Westside


Construction notices are up in the vacant storefront at the NE corner of Pico/WW Blvds, telegraphing an impending retail launch. The space–if I recall correctly, originally a Good Guys A/V joint and then, briefly, just before its current dusty state, a hasty incarnation of Comp USA– is being primed for the opening of a new Guitar Center location. It will be interesting to watch how this store takes root in the area and what, if any, effect it will have on nearby music shops.

That the Westlake Village-based Guitar Center, with their 150+ shops nationwide hasn’t needed a bigger presence in the #2 market to thrive–shares have sloped upwards nicely from $40 to $60 in just the last year–isn’t a really a surprise. The Sunset Blvd. G.C. is a flagship, a pilgrimage destination. That location is strong enough that a Sam Ash can set up camp 180 degrees across the street and try to skim their throwaway action. The myriad outlying G.C. SoCal locations, from the South Bay to the Valley to the I.E., satiate the suburbanite hobbyists who (one would guess) make up the bulk of their base. So why even bother with Los Angeles, CA 900xx?

Beloved McCabe’s Guitar Shop, just down on Pico, past the 10, is the closest to the new G.C. location geographically, but it couldn’t be farther from the megachain in the broader, spiritual sense. With their homey digs and their specialty stock and specialist staff, McCabe’s needn’t worry about G.C. honing in on their action.

These days the titular “guitar” of G.C. is little more than just a name, more than any accurate description of any specialty. Sure, they’ll have requisite guitars hanging on the wall, rising up in order of ascending retail tags, the familiar Boss stomp box demo display, with your MT-2’s (Metal Zone!) and your MD-2’s (Mega Distortion!), and the wood paneled acoustic chamber, but one suspects guitars are accounting for less and less of their action these days. Anyone going into a G.C. today in is just as likely to take home Serato Scratch (DJing) or Ableton Live (mashups) as they are to pick up an axe to work out some licks. The telltale sign of the times to watch for will be the amount of square footage this high profile location devotes to software.

Maybe West LA Music, up on SM Blvd., will take a hit from G.C.’s stomping into the area. Or, perhaps, will WLAM gain customers who need that extra bit of expertise they can’t get from the average G.C. worker? I wouldn’t mind seeing them knocked down a peg or two, just to keep them honest. I admit I’m a bit biased here. Ill memories linger of wandering in there to buy just a couple of packs of picks or a cable and being subjected to way too much Pro Audio Attitude. Not too mention way more dot matrix paperwork than really should be legal for a sub-$20 transaction. I haven’t been in there in ages, but I hear the staff are more easy going these days than in those bitter Nirvana days. Regardless, WLAM just isn’t laid out to to host long visits of gear noodling. Just doesn’t have the square footage that a G.C. does.

Here’s to hoping G.C. does just well enough to hang in this spot while not throwing off the equilibrium of longtime area gear shops.