The Kalamazoo Guitar Shop (KGS) is a new guitar repair and building shop along the Kalamazoo Mall. With a corridor of guitars displayed on walls and luthier instruments spread on tables, it functions as half museum and half repair shop.
Co-owners Ry Charters and Jay Cavan opened the store on October 3 during Art Hop in hopes to continue Kalamazoo’s long tradition of music and guitar making.
Charters is a professional luthier devoting his time fully to KGS, and Cavan is a musician, guitar manufacturer, part time history teacher, and founder of the yearly Fretboard Festival. The two met more than 10 years ago at Heritage Guitar, the local guitar manufacturing company where Cavan still works and that took over the Gibson Guitar Co. factory when the famous guitar company moved to Nashville.
The vision came to Charters 6 months ago when he decided to move back from Seattle and expand the guitar business in Kalamazoo.
The decision to start the KGS in Kalamazoo was a no brainer, said Cavan. “There’s a big guitar tradition here,” he said. “We wanted to have a shop right in downtown that speaks to that tradition”
“[We] wanted to get a nice shop that could deal with the tradition and be a high-end place for collectors as well as player to have work done,” said Cavan.
KGS hopes to attract more guitarist with its central location in downtown. The foot traffic, especially during Art Hop, will help KGS publicize itself as a posh guitar repair shop.
Cavan and Charter hope they will start building their own guitars and Amplifiers. With Charter’s lengthy resume with guitar building, such an endeavor is not out of sight. Time and feasibility are the main concerns now. Charter has already built one guitar so far, and with more coming soon, they both hope.
KGS’s instrument repair ranges from vintage Mandolins to newer, less antique guitars. Cavan said he and Charter “want to focus on really really nice instruments and instruments made in Kalamazoo”
Since its opening, KGS received some calls from owners of vintage guitars who were willing to sell their unused instruments. KGS will evaluate the guitars, repair any musical misgivings, and sell the instruments for the best price.
“Successful for us would be staying in business in the level we are at,” said Cavan. “If we expand, we would like to build more instruments.”