Author: Campbell, Bruce

A Small Piece of Small Town Charm Slips Away

This week, a close friend of mine announced that he was going to have to close his music store in downtown Martinez.

He has run the store for about 7 years, and it’s become a treasured part of our downtown. Remember in the Andy Griffith show, where Floyd’s Barber Shop is where folks would hang out and shoot the breeze? Well, in Martinez, Good Stuff Guitar Shop was a social center.

Drop in anytime they’re open (and sometimes, even when they’re not) and there’ll be folks you know, talking about what’s going on, who’s doing what, who’s playing where and with whom.
If you drop by a half hour before they open, there’s probably a couple of folks hanging around, waiting for the owner to show up. My dog knows very well he will get a dog biscuit when we go in - a big one!

There’s always an interesting array of new and used gear - guitars, mandolins, banjos, basses, amps and the like. The owner is a leftie and the shop has a generous collection of left-handed instruments. Local musicians would be picking up supplies like picks,strings, capos and tuners, and sometimes, they’d buy an instrument. I guess we didn’t buy enough instruments.

I actually feel guilt over the closing of this store. But I can only buy so many instruments - and they last a long time. Everybody I know has some instrument from Good Stuff, and some people were in a constant cycle of buying instruments, selling them and buying new ones. It still wasn’t enough.

Maybe the owner was too generous. I know he gave me great deals, which I was flattered to be offered, and pleased to accept. If there was a charity auction in town, Good Stuff always donated an instrument to be auctioned. The owner also sponsored a blues Open Mic - paying the house band out of his own pocket to ensure attendees got to play with top notch talent.

I think the economics of a small store in a small town, selling durable goods, is tough. I suspect a tool store would have similar challenges. The locals just couldn’t buy enough to make ends meet. Pressure from big box stores like Guitar Center probably hurt. Concord is only a few miles away from Martinez, but Concord’s 100,000+ residents are probably inclined to shop in their town, even though though their money will leave for Guitar Center;s corporate office, wherever that is.

I don’t know how far you live from Martinez, but everything that sells from the Good Stuff Guitar Shop this month will help the owner pay off his debt and prepare him for the next chapter. Good Stuff’s plight is not unique - Best Music in Oakland is also closing, I hear. Folks, if you play music, you know you’re going to buy instruments and supplies - please consider buying them from sole proprietorships - the big box stores just don’t have the soul. Do your Christmas shopping at these places and you’ll be helping local businesses and buying great gifts for your friends and loved ones!

Good Stuff Music is on 511 Main Street in Martinez.

Best Music is on 1716 Broadway in Oakland.

Posted:  12/11/2013

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email