Earlier this year, local guitar player/collector and entrepreneur Geoff Albert quit his upper-level management job at a certain local music-retail superstore to fulfill a personal dream: owning his own musical instrument store. That dream became a reality in early April, when Albert opened Revolve Guitars and Music at 5238 Stage Rd. in Bartlett.
Albert spoke to the Memphis Flyer this week about opening the store and his career in the music industry.
Flyer: How did you get into music and the music business originally?
Albert: I have always been into guitar. I studied classical guitar in college and got a degree in music theory from the University of Memphis back in the 90s. I then went to grad school for a while for music history. At the time I was also working in a record store and was digging that, and left grad school to pursue it. I spent 18 years in that business with the last 7 years in multi-store management with stores all over the place.
What sets Revolve apart from other instrument stores in the Memphis area?
We are small in size, but I stock a wide selection of brands and accessories, all at prices that are consistent with online and mega instrument stores. I really believe strongly in sincere customer service. People want a chance to be informed and allowed to play instruments, without high pressure sales pitches. Honesty and respectful service above all else is extremely important to me. I am in business and I need to sell stuff, but to me it’s about honest and informative service. In addition, I have a big focus on used gear and refurbs - the chance to get a guitar that looks and plays like new, but at a discounted price. I really try to find great playing instruments out there that don’t break the bank. And I really take time with every guitar that comes in, whether new or used to make sure it is set up and playing well. Even a $75 used starter guitar will get what it needs to make it play it’s best. So many folks will buy a guitar right out of a box and it isn’t right - maybe the frets are sharp and jagged, or the action is so high that it makes learning much more difficult. That can be very discouraging for someone learning. It is important that people get an instrument that plays well. I am committed to that, no matter what the price.
How can/will you compete with the bigger chain stores in that neighborhood?
From a price standpoint, I price like the online places do and match all prices on anything anyone else carries. I also honor coupons from other music stores as well.
Also, many people really want to get out and support their local owned shops. I hear it every day from people. I respect what Guitar Center does and has done, always have. Big selection and good prices. I believe in easy to shop, clean and neat stores with clear pricing and signage. I try and do the same type thing in my store, but with a much bigger emphasis on individual customer service and making it feel like a local place. Music is supposed to be fun and a joy - I really try and show that with my store and how I handle my business.
What kinds of gear and services do you specialize in?
We are mainly a guitar store. I am a dealer for ESP and LTD guitars, Takamine, Prestige (a great small Canadian guitar company), Hamer, Sierra, Morgan Monroe and Indy Custom. Plus I have a lot of nearly new guitars from Guild, Epiphone, Ovation, Fender acoustics, Ibanez and others. I deal in used too, so that changes all the time. On the amp side, my main amp line is Orange, plus we have Crate, Sundown and we are bringing in the new Ampeg guitar amps. I carry a lot of effects - Robert Keeley stuff, some of the new TC Electronic stomp boxes, BBE Sound, Mod Tone, some Line 6 stuff and Pigtronix. I can also order just about any major pedal out there. We also carry ukuleles, basic live sound stuff , lots of songbooks, learning methods, band/orchestra accessories , etc. In addition, we can order a lot of stuff we don’t stock and I never charge anything extra for that. We offer guitar lessons and have a some really great teachers. You get a free lesson with any guitar purchase. We also offer repair services. I do basic, in-house repairs and we are lucky to have Mike Stoker , a very respected tech available for all of our advanced repairs or for any customer who requests him. In addition, we will be moving into the band instrument rental soon.
How has business been so far?
We opened right before Easter. So far the response has been great. No major advertising campaign as of yet. A lot of word of mouth doing the work right now, but we have had a great positive response from our local community. I am really honored by the people coming in to the store. There are a lot of choices out there for musical gear, and I never forget that folks chose to shop with me. It really means a lot .
What inspired the name of the store?
Really the name comes from my desire to combine the idea of used gear and trade ins with the idea of learning and musical education. As someone “evolves” in their musical learning, they can trade in their unwanted or outgrown gear for something else - revolve the gear in and out to someone else.