It’s not every day you stumble upon a small-town, independent guitar store on a Main Street in America — especially these days, with so many online music outlets. But on Saturday, that’s exactly what happened, when my family decided to take a stroll through the picturesque town of Oneonta, N.Y., about 20 miles south of Cooperstown, N.Y., and stumbled upon Mountain Jam Guitars.
With no specific agenda except to window shop, we came upon the guitar hub almost by accident. I almost missed the nondescript silver sign, that marked the entrance to a guitar player’s candy store — stringed instruments of all shapes, sizes, and models, from the Gretsch G9201 Honeydipper Metal Resonators to cream-colored Fender Strats. Psychedelic pedals and ukuleles in rainbow hues filled out the space beautifully.
John, the owner and a self-proclaimed Deadhead, encouraged me to plug into a 30-watt Orange tube amp and test out one of his favorites: the D’Angelico Premier Series Grateful Dead Limited-Edition 50th Anniversary Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar in satin walnut, featuring Seymour Duncan humbuckers and artwork inspired by the Grateful Dead’s epic record American Beauty (the album that features beloved tracks “Sugar Magnolia” and “Ripple,” among others).
The tone was so beautiful that I forgot to check my tuning before launching into one of my originals, followed by an attempt at “Uncle John’s Band,” which I’d memorized all the lyrics to, but not the music.
My kids were getting antsy to go to the gaming store for Pokemon cards and trinkets, otherwise I would have stayed longer. But I bought a couple of packs of guitar pics and strings for the road.
I hope that Deadheads, guitar players and would-be musicians frequent these stores the next time they’re ready to invest in a new instrument, amp, or pedal. While I love online outlets like Sweetwater as much as anyone else, nothing can replicate the experience of plugging in and playing, soaking in the aura of a music shop, and engaging in a shopping experience that feels personalized and reflects the passion of its owner.
The the visit to Mountain Jam Guitars (145 Main Street, Oneonta, N.Y., 13820) made my trip to Oneonta, N.Y., a memorable one, and restored my faith in the small businesses that make small-town America so charming.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.