Cornwall Stores Offer Plenty of Choice for Musicians

By Vince Pilon
December 18, 2012

Cornwall Music StoresCornwall Ontario - In Cornwall, three stores make sure the area's many musicians are properly equipped.

Strung Out Guitars, despite being relatively new, carries time-tested products. Owner Art O'Reilly opened the store in Cornwall's Le Village district in 2006. Art opened his first music store in 1986 in Montreal. He moved to Cornwall a decade later, and finally opened Strung Out Guitars in 2006.

“The house was getting crowded with guitars,” he says. “So yeah, it was time.”

Art's passion is for vintage guitars.

“They don't make them like they used to,” he says. “Older guitars have a better build quality, and they mature with age. They've got a better sound. The pickups were wound by hand, not by a machine.”

His attraction to them, however, goes beyond superior quality.

“They're cool, you know? I just get a joy out of it.”

He says that even if he doesn't make a sale, he enjoys exhibiting unique instruments. Art's inventory revolves around good quality used guitars, anything from Fender, Gibson, Jackson and “Japanese vintage guitars from the seventies.

Rainbow Music owner Gilles Grignon started backwards in the business. “Most stores open up with sales,” he says, while his store “started as service.” The tall, shaggy-bearded Grignon started by working on guitars and “lots of amplifiers.”

Grignon grew up around the technology. His father owned Grignon TV and Electronics, which featured “pretty much everything that plugged in.” He trained in electronics through a Ministry of Labour program, took correspondence courses and taught himself before launching his business at a time when service was scarce and “amplifiers were breaking down regularly.”

And he never looked back.

Forty years later, Rainbow Music is about “guitars, guitars, guitars, and lots of service.” He says that it's now easier than ever to buy a guitar, especially with the Internet, but that service is hard to find.

“That's why I'm always busy booking repair work,” he says. Some of Grignon's more famous clients include Rush and The Tragically Hip.

“Not too shabby” says Grignon. “The word spreads pretty fast when you get into that territory, because these guys cherish their guitars. They don't want to let a hack attack it.”

Though he didn't start with sales, Grignon now stocks plenty of Canadian guitars. “I carry probably more Canadian stuff than anybody in Eastern Ontario” he says, listing off Godin, Seagull, Norman, and La Patrie, as examples. He says customers can get a “better bang for the buck because the guitar is not imported, it's made right here in Canada.

Melody Music Centre has been equipping musicians for just about fifty years. Owner Steve Summers has been there since the beginning.

“The business started in 1963. I started a year after,” he says. “I was a customer and a musician. The owner just asked me to start working.”

Steve bought the business in 1979.

From the street, the store's appearance can be deceiving.

“The first time you walk in here, you don't realize the size of the store,” says Steve.

The inside is actually an amalgamation of three downtown commercial spaces that house a multitude of musical instruments and equipment. Steve says the store doesn't “specialize” in any particular product.

“That's the good part. We specialize in musical instruments [themselves], which means we carry lots of them.”

Pointing to the piano section, he adds “It's not like I have two pianos here. You have ten different models on the floor. Same with keyboards.”

The store, he says, provides a similar experience to one you could find in a much larger urban centre. Having a multitude of major name brands under one roof is a big advantage.

“When you're handling Fender, Epiphone, Yamaha, means a lot to a consumer.”

The store's crown jewel is a climate-controlled room which houses the very best, most expensive instruments, like Martin guitars.

“They're noted all over the world,” says Steve. “Hank Williams. Bob Dylan. Just keep naming the artists, and they've used a Martin Guitar.”

The American guitar has been produced by the Martin family since1833.

“It's a beautiful instrument,” says Steve.

All three store owners give a shout out to their loyal clientele. “We've got a ridiculous amount of musicians” says Grignon.

Steve agrees, “Cornwall has always been noted for the quality of its musicians.” He recounts how outside venues would give Cornwall performers a chance simply because of the city's reputation for good musicians.

A reputation which, he adds, “is still the same.”

Strung Out Guitars

Rainbow Music

Melody Music Centre

Category: Business