For Wayne and Jamie Roche, rehabbing and retailing guitars struck a chord.
The pair launched Grand Slam Guitars at 139 Main St. in Cooperstown earlier this year, but the Roches bring decades of industry experience to their business. The store, Wayne Roche, 42, said, features “a beautiful showroom, with just about 100 guitars,” as well as parts, repair services and lessons.
“I’m originally from New Jersey and we’ve lived up this way for about seven years, now,” Wayne said. “We’ve been in the industry for 23 years, running a company called Guitarheads that specialized in parts, upgrades and modifications, and we’ve been expanding ever since we moved up here. We started out doing trade shows … and did that for 11 years. Way back in the day, when things were changing and the internet was new … I decided to sell a few guitar items online and was extremely successful. eBay wasn’t even around, but it took off and, within months, we were able to buy our first home, upgrade our computer systems, create a shipping department and it’s grown ever since, and that was back in ’99. We were running everything out of the house, but an opportunity came up for a storefront in Cooperstown and it was really nice.”
“I wasn’t originally a guitar player when I met Wayne, and he really sparked my interest and taught me most of what I know — from basic repairs to all the different parts of a guitar,” Jamie said. “He really made me want to be part of it. I used to work outside of the house owning my own business, but at some point, we decided it would be best for me to step in and do more guitar-related stuff and, ever since, I’ve been very pleased. I do a lot of the shipping and behind-the-scenes stuff and online orders, and I also make some of the custom products.”
Starting when and how they did, Wayne and Jamie said, proved instrumental.
“I’ve always been a guitar player … and I had a few things laying around and was surprised by how quickly they sold and how much they sold for,” he said. “I even started purchasing guitars and selling piece by piece and, within a couple years, got dealer programs and wholesale suppliers on board, because it was a new concept.”
“We’ve been doing this and nothing else for many years,” she said. “A lot of other people in the industry have tried to do what we’ve done, and some people do not have the staying power, but we’ve been able to do this all these years.”
Wayne said, with the shop, he’s continued evolving.
“We cover most of the major brands — Gibson, Fender, those kinds of household names,” he said. “And we specialize in a lot of handmade (guitars) by boutique builders that are one-of-a-kind and very unique.
“Right now, it’s the baseball-themed guitars in our front window,” he continued. “We have Yankees and Red Sox guitars, which spark a lot of conversation, and we have our signature models: an authentic Eddie Van Halen Charvel guitar from 1982; it’s the black and yellow striped Van Halen guitar that a lot of people are familiar with. A lot of people have been drawn to the Randy Rhoads polka-dotted Flying V, which is currently hanging over our fireplace. It’s newer, but he was an extremely gifted player in the guitar community, and he passed away a couple years ago.”
Grand Slam’s customer base, Wayne said, is similarly eclectic.
“It’s really all over the place,” he said. “Cooperstown is a diverse marketplace; the locals have shown a lot of support, but now that tourists are coming in, we’re getting people from all walks of life, all over the country and all different kinds of music. It’s tough for us to keep up, but it’s great because it’s so versatile. Someone can come in in the morning looking for something heavy metal and in the afternoon for a banjo. We get a lot of families that come in and a lot of people bringing kids in, but we get retired people and a lot of couples, so it’s a little of everything, which is great for us, and we appreciate that everyone wants to come in and check it out.”
And, the Roches said, Grand Slam ships more than 1,000 packages a week, worldwide.
Wayne, who said Grand Slam will operate year-round, said he plans to keep riffing.
“We’re planning a lot of in-store events for summer and fall, everything from clinics to workshops, whether guitar- or music-related, and we have a few other theme nights in the works and some open-mic things for local musicians to get together,” he said.
“I’m very excited about where it’s headed,” Jamie said. “It’s a great opportunity for us … and we are big baseball fans, so it’s great to be part of Cooperstown, but also to be able to bring more options for music to Cooperstown and surrounding areas. Part of why we wanted to be part of this community is to bring people and music together.”
For more information, visit grandslamguitars.com, follow @grandslamguitars on Instagram or call 607-282-4289.
Grand Slam Guitars is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays and open from noon to 5 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays; noon to 7 Saturdays; noon to 3 Sundays; and noon to 5 Mondays.