It's not a surprise. Trying to operate a mom-and-pop store of any type has become increasingly difficult in recent years. Still, it's a sad day for local musicians.
Update: Here's a column I wrote about the business when it opened in late 2010:
River City Guitars to help fill void left by Old Boise Guitar Co.
Randy Meenach has seen the weakness of man, and it comes with handwound humbuckers and a mahogany body.
Meenach, who just climbed down from a ladder in front of the vacant Perpetual Metals Jewelry and Mineral Gallery at 574 W. Main St., is making a convincing argument to me about the business potential of his soon-to-open River City Guitars.
"Guys have a way of paying for guitars when they want them," Meenach says, his eyes gleaming. "I think it's a genetic thing."
Standing in the empty 900-square-foot space, we can see Old Boise Guitar Co. directly across Main Street. A sign on the front window reads: "2 Days Left - Store Closing." By the time this column hits newsstands, Old Boise Guitar Co. will be shuttered after 26 years, victim of an evolving economic landscape. (Incidentally, word on the street says Pengilly's Saloon next door is considering an expansion into the Old Boise Guitar space, doubling the bar's size.)
Old Boise Guitar's demise leaves a void in the Downtown music community. But River City Guitars, set to open Nov. 1, launches a new era for guitarists and bassists.
Meenach, a guitar tech at Old Boise Guitar for eight years, will run the full-service shop's day-to-day operations. Guitarist Joe Cefalu, who has been teaching for five years in a second-floor space above Old Boise Guitar, is the man writing the checks.
Meenach is a natural salesman. Cefalu, as owner, exudes a more cautious optimism.
"It could be great," Cefalu says. "Hopefully, if we do it right, and the service is right, and people support it, we'll be there for a little while."
Most of the techs and luthiers familiar to Old Boise Guitar's customers plan to make the move to River City. The shop also will take over Old Boise Guitar's phone number. But River City Guitars will not be Old Boise Guitar II, Cefalu and Meenach say. The shop won't focus on entry-level guitars from large manufacturers, which were part of Old Boise Guitarís stock and contributed to its challenges against chains such as Guitar Center.
Instead, River City will showcase mid- to high-end instruments - particularly lines unavailable elsewhere in Boise. Many guitars will be custom-made. Others will come from small manufacturers - makers like Santa Cruz Guitar Company for acoustic instruments and Tom Anderson Guitar Works for electrics. As a former gallery, the room already has an artsy, urban vibe. That won't change. Guitars will be hung on the walls. Meenach has plans for Oriental rugs, as well as a turntable and vinyl records in the back. Couches and music will be part of the ambience. There also will be an enclosed playing room, where a customer can tinker privately on a guitar.
"It's going to be a great shop when weíre done with it," Meenach says. "We're going to be doing some things differently than Old Boise Guitar did."
Merchandise will be key.
"Good guitars have always sold," Meenach says. "Whenever Old Boise Guitar got something cool over there, it sold."
Even in a down economy, River City has a fighting chance. As Meenach says, some players just can't help themselves; they must buy guitars. Heck, I have a friend who used to keep new guitars at a buddy's house so his wife wouldn't find out.
Still, Cefalu's plans are to build up River City slowly, taking feedback from customers and being smart about the new business.
"I'm excited, but I'm too busy right now to be Pogo-sticking around Main Street, " Cefalu says, before chuckling. "Like, Randy's, literally, he's been jumping up and down in front of the store."
© 2010 Idaho Statesman