New York City has been one of the world’s most interesting places to be for a very long time.
This cultural melting pot of people that come from all over the world is a place where you can find everything, and it is not just about historical landmarks or skyscrapers, as it is home to some of the coolest guitar stores you could ever stumble upon.
Many of these stores are filled with history from the past decades. Several of your guitar heroes have passed through these places, and you might have seen them playing instruments that they’ve bought in one of these stores at some point.
In this guide, I will tell you all about the amazing guitar stores that you absolutely can’t miss when you get a chance to walk around the city that never sleeps!
Bottom Line Up Front
New York City’s neighborhoods are full of life, and aside from all the cultural and historical landmarks, you can find guitar stores that are authentic pieces of the city’s history.
Venturing through the Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Soho, and other dynamic neighborhoods is advisable for anyone looking to find rare and unique guitars.
Many of these places have been there for decades and did business with musicians that you’ve heard countless times. After all, many of them either live in New York City or spend time in the city when they are recording or on tour.
Some of the most iconic places you can visit include Rudy’s Music, Eddie’s Guitars, Main Drag Music, Chelsea Guitars, and Rivington Guitars.
Coolest Guitar Stores in New York City – Our Top Picks
Below, you’ll learn a little bit about some of the most iconic and historical guitar stores in the Big Apple.
Even though some stores have bigger collections than others, whether they are better or worse depends on the person visiting them.
Also, some of these stores are not open anymore, but I decided to include them due to their massive historical value.
Some of these places were the most talked about stores in NYC for decades, and preserving their memory is as important as preserving the records of the musicians who shopped there during the height of their careers.
1. Rudy’s Music Soho – Birthplace of Pensa Guitars
Rudy’s Music is one of the most historical stores in New York City. Opened in 1978 by Rudy Pensa and his wife, Fran, this place quickly gained a reputation as a fine establishment for whoever needed quality instruments and a good service that would make you feel at home.
This kind of feeling sprouted from Rudy’s love, passion, and excitement for music, guitars, and helping people find the instrument that resonates with them the most. The store is located on 48th Street, which was already known for being a hub for musicians of all kinds.
If you’ve ever heard of Pensa guitars, maybe you’ve already connected the dots. Rudy Pensa, along with Mark Knopfler from the Dire Straits, designed the first Pensa model in 1985. This moment was the genesis of a coveted guitar that many world-renowned artists play, such as Eric Clapton, Lou Reed, and Mark Knopfler.
Since then, Rudy has opened another store, located in Scarsdale, Westchester County, NY.
2. Matt Umanov Guitars – Bleecker Street’s Guitar Haven
Matt Umanov first came into the New York City music scene when he opened his guitar repair and restoration workshop on Bleecker Street, in 1965.
A few years later, in 1969, he decided to open a repair and sale shop. He still performed all the repairs and focused on high-quality instruments only, which doesn’t mean they were all expensive.
Matt knows a lot about guitars, particularly about the ones that meet the standards that he has set for his shop. This kind of perfectionism and care has landed him customers such as Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and Lou Reed.
Everyone who has been to the store or went through the process of acquiring an instrument via his online store has only good things to say about Matt’s approach to the guitars he sells.
Sadly, Matt Umanov decided to close his shop recently. Although many people speculate that it has to do with the rent skyrocketing during the last few years, Matt stated that he is too old to keep going at the same rhythm. He initially kept the repair side of his business active, but the doors have since been closed and locked.
3. Chelsea Guitars – A Space for Bluesmen and Rockers
Named after the neighborhood where they opened their doors, Chelsea Guitars has been the meeting point for blues and rock musicians for a very long time. Since its genesis, in 1992, Chelsea Guitars has been known for their extensive and eclectic collection of vintage and uncommon guitars.
Many music legends such as Patti Smith, Dee Dee Ramone, Jeff Buckley, and B.B. King have been to this place to try out and purchase some of their instruments. The cluttered shop, managed by Mr. Courtenay, contrasts with the newly-renovated Chelsea Hotel, where a single Martini is more expensive than several packs of strings.
The pressure from all the new and expensive places around Mr. Courtenay’s iconic shop is increasing with each passing year, and there’s no telling what will happen to his place in a few years. Hopefully, he can maintain this place where the walls would tell stories for hours if they could.
4. 30th Street Guitars – Repairs, Vintage Instruments and a lot of Mojo
30th Street Guitars was born out of Matt Brewster’s passion for repairing and building guitars. As a kid, he would spend hours tearing guitars apart, only to rebuild them later. Luckily, he transformed his favorite hobby into his profession. He is extremely enthusiastic about old guitars that look old, but play like new.
Vintage guitars are coveted by many due to their value and their sound, but the truth is that any old guitars are not playable due to problems that build up and worsen over the years, but Matt is keen on eliminating these problems so he can sell vintage guitars fit for the most demanding of performers.
30th Street Guitars opened in 1995 on the same street that gives its name to the store, but since then, Matt has moved to a new location, although he maintained the same name. His store is now located at 234 W 27 Street, which he because it is located in a safer neighborhood where everything feels calmer than before.
5. Manny’s Music – A Former Icon for Guitarists That Deserves Being Celebrated
Manny’s Music has been visited and discussed by virtually every guitarist whose journey passed through New York City. This music store was responsible for shaping the music scene in this metropolis, and it received icons such as The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, among many others.
After having its doors open since 1935, it sadly closed in 2009. Lots of famous musicians took to social networks to express their sadness and nostalgia about Manny’s Music, talking about the endless memories they have from the place. It now lives on in the memory of every person who passed by this unique establishment.
6. Main Drag Music – Distinctive Venue, Store and Repair Shop in Brooklyn
Main Drag music is a staple of Brooklyn’s music scene. This store opened its doors in 1997, and since then, it has been one of the driving forces of its neighborhood’s musical personality and activity.
Aside from selling new and vintage instruments, they also perform repairs, and they host a series of events such as concerts that are announced on their website. If you’re passing through Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Main Drag Music is an obligatory stop for guitar nerds of all kinds.
Karl Myers, the founder, is passionate about finding the best tools to make music, and helping find their way into capable hands that will put them to good use. Aside from guitars, they also sell drums, vintage synths, among other gems.
7. Rivington Guitars – A Complete Music Institution on East 4th Street
Rivington Guitars is a place responsible for putting amazing instruments in the hands of talented musicians for over 25 years. Their first location has been closed so they could expand to a bigger place, now located on East 4th Street since 2008. The original street is now home to Rivington Guitars Unplugged, dedicated to acoustic instruments.
Rivington Guitars isn’t just a place to buy your next guitar. It specializes in buying, selling, trading, and repairing all kinds of vintage guitars, amps, keyboards, among others. They usually have over 350 vintage guitars from all the brands you love, such as Gibson, Martin, Gretsch, Fender, Rickenbacker, and much more.
Their website has an extensive list of famous musicians who bought guitars from their store, such as Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, The Killers, Green Day, Mötley Crue, Norah Jones, and many more.
Apart from all of this, they even offer guitar lessons, rental services, and appraisals.
8. Guitar Center Times Square – Megastore in the Heart of the Big Apple
I don’t want to say that a Guitar Center store is one of the most iconic shops in New York City, because it is a franchise that can be found in hundreds of locations throughout the United States. However, it is undeniable that this megastore catches the eye of any guitarist who passes by.
In my personal opinion, I wouldn’t go to a Guitar Center for personalized service, rare instruments, or uncommon musical products, but if I was passing by and needed something that most stores usually have in stock, like strings or any accessories, I’m sure it would solve my problems.
9. Carmine Street Guitars – Reclaimed Wood Turned Into Unique Instruments
Located in the Greenwich Village, Carmine Street Guitars is associated with Rick Kelly, a luthier who uses reclaimed woods from old NYC buildings to craft his creations. These unique guitars have caught the attention of famous musicians such as David Bowie, Bob Dylan, and Patti Smith.
In 2018, a documentary about Carmine Street Guitars was released, which brought a lot more attention to Rick Kelly, who now has a much wider reach than he did before its release. This film, directed and produced by Ron Mann, and written by Len Blum, premiered at the 75th Venice International Film Festival.
10. Rogue Music – Chelsea’s Vintage Vibes and Repairs
Rogue Music opened its doors in 1983, in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. This noteworthy store sells new and used guitars, modern and vintage, making it a place where it is very likely that you’ll find something that catches your attention.
Although this place’s focus is selling used equipment, it also has an authorized service department where skilled workers repair and restore gear. The used products they sell come with a free month guarantee so that if anything goes wrong, they can step in and fix it free of charge.
I have bought a very big part of my gear second-hand, so this concept is very appealing to me. You can save a lot of money on many things that aren’t very prone to breaking down, which is why I always check these kinds of places before buying new.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About the Coolest Guitar Stores in New York City
Question: What are Some of the Most Iconic Guitar shops in New York City?
Answer: New York City has been a hub for guitarists and musicians of all kinds for decades. Many of its stores have received clients from all over the world, as well as famous artists that live there, or pass by when they are on tour. Some of the most recognizable guitar stores include Rudy’s Music, Chelsea Guitars, 30th Street Guitars, Rivington Guitars, and Main Drag Music.
Question: Are There Any Guitar Stores in New York City that Focus on Vintage Instruments?
Answer: Many of New York City’s guitar shops are the place to be for those looking to acquire a vintage guitar. Some of the best stores to find an old guitar in great condition are Rivington Guitars, Main Drag Music, and 30th Street Guitars.
Question: Which Stores Offer Repair and Maintenance Services in New York City?
Answer: Many stores offer high-quality repair and maintenance services in New York City, and several of those cater to world-famous musicians who rely on them to get them out of a pinch. Some of these places even started as repair shops that eventually expanded to buying and selling instruments as well. Some of the best examples are Main Drag Music, Rivington Guitars, and 30th Street Guitars.
Closing Considerations About the Coolest Guitar Stores in New York City
As you can see, the city that never sleeps is home to some of the most interesting, historical, and unique guitar stores that you can find.
They are also not limited to a certain block or neighborhood, so if you plan it right, you can visit a handful of amazing guitar shops while you’re venturing through several of its iconic neighborhoods.
Even though the last few years haven’t been easy for many stores that have been forced to shut their doors due to pressure from other establishments such as hotels, or their rents rising through the roof, New York City is still one of the world’s hottest places to be for guitar lovers who are looking to fall in love with their next 6-stringed best friend.