Minding Your Business
Harry’s Guitar Shop
More than thirty years later it remains the hub of strings and things in Raleigh.
By Carla Turchetti
Photography by Joe Reale
It was actually pretty simple back in 1985. Harry Tueting had been playing the guitar since he was a little boy and he just couldn’t find a shop that carried the things he wanted to have as a musician.
“I was playing in a little duo and we were having trouble buying things,” Teuting says.
And that’s how it began – first as a shop on Johnson Street, and then 30 years more in a building on Glenwood South, and now in a spacious location off of Blue Ridge Road.
“Parking downtown is a nightmare and I have a lot more space inside this building,” Teuting says. “Our teaching space has doubled in size, and we have a loading dock and a proper warehouse.”
Harry’s Guitar Shop is like a candy shop for musicians. Owned and completely staffed by musicians, the walls are covered with gleaming instruments that aren’t just limited to acoustic and electric guitars. He’s got banjos, mandolins, ukuleles and more. And while it is a place that provides a home for accomplished musicians, absolute beginners are welcome to become part of the community here as well. The instruments themselves run the gamut from entry level to extremely sophisticated. Lessons of all kinds are available, and Harry says he is frequently asked how early children can begin learning to play.
“Usually about first grade,” Tueting says. “Once they have the idea that they have to have homework and do work on their own, then they can take it to heart. They move fast. They are quick. It’s always fun to see how fast they do it.”
Harry began playing the guitar as a youngster and still plays every day. The shop is very focused on lessons and developing musicians.
“Look at the kinds of things that can be played on a guitar – rock and country and jazz and blues and gospel. It’s the teacher’s goal to find what in that wide range sparks the most interest in a student.”
Because if the student is interested, he or she will continue to play.
“Lots of people buy a first guitar, but people who learn to play through lessons might buy another guitar. So if you want to keep a customer through the years, what you want to do is have someone interested in their own music.”
Technology has come a long way since Harry opened the doors in 1985. His first business partner didn’t even think the shop needed a computer. Today the entire inventory is found in his online store, and that has given him a customer base with no geographical boundaries. That’s different from the old days when a nationwide catalog generated excitement when it landed in mailboxes in this area.
“When the new Musician’s Friend paper catalog hit the mail, it did two things,” Tueting says. “It attracted a lot of business. It was the biggest non-local competitor and a huge catalog, but it generated a lot of business for us, too, because of what customers wanted that they had seen in Musician’s Friend.”
And the shift into a digital world has also benefitted the shop.
“I think email and cellphones changed the business. People will be anywhere now and call you. It’s much more convenient for people because they can learn a lot of things without stopping in.”
But in the end it is simply the music that keeps Harry, his business and his customers connected.
“We know that we have something important in common with everyone who walks in the door. And we know that our mission is to help them play their music as they want to.”
That means helping each person discover and develop the most authentic musician within.
“While our experience of playing music in whatever way we each do guides us in helping them, we don’t try to make that be more important than what they are doing – because THAT is what’s important.”