Shop Talk: Russo Music in Asbury Park, New Jersey

Russo’s collection meets and exceeds the legendary status of this seaside town that has been the mecca for so many music legends and influencers.
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Russo Music started on the sun porch of Stephen and Lucy Russo’s home in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1960. Years later, after the business completely took over their house, they moved the operation to Hamilton Township. In 2010 they opened their first shop in Asbury Park, which they then moved to their current breathtaking and completely awesome location in 2013. Russo’s collection meets and exceeds the legendary status of this seaside town that has been the mecca for so many music legends and influencers.

NUMBER OF INSTRUMENTS CURRENTLY IN STOCK
Scott Engel (Director of Marketing): In Asbury Park we have more than 400 guitars and another 300-plus in Hamilton.

COOLEST INSTRUMENT CURRENTLY IN THE SHOP
The 2013 Gibson Custom Shop “Lucy.” It’s a replica of the George Harrison/Eric Clapton/Rick Derringer ’57 Les Paul, and only 100 were made. Or maybe it’s the Martin George Bauer 00-41 from NAMM this year…or maybe it’s the 1967 Mosrite Melobar Standup Lap Steel…

MOST SOUGHT-AFTER INSTRUMENT BY CUSTOMERS
Without being too specific, we sell more Teles than any other style of guitar. We’re a pretty traditional shop—Teles, Strats, Les Pauls, 335s, Gretsch 6120s—that’s what our customers seem to gravitate to. In acoustic we sell a lot of Gibsons, Martins and Taylors.

ONE THING EVERYONE SHOUD KNOW ABOUT YOUR SHOP
We are a repair-forward operation. Our Asbury Park store was a repair shop with 40 guitars for sale before we could get any of the big brands to do business with us. So we keep that philosophy alive. Everything goes through the shop before the wall, as often as needed while we have it, and again before you take it home. That relationship between repair and retail is what makes us special. And we’re all really chill, which is tight.

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STRANGEST REQUEST FROM A CUSTOMER
One of my guys was asked to deliver a purchase through an open basement door of the customer’s house at night and set the equipment up so that his wife wouldn’t notice anything new. He did it. That’s legal, right?

THE ONE PIECE OF GEAR EVERY PLAYER SHOULD HAVE
A tuner! Please buy a tuner. And if it’s a clip-on tuner, please stop leaving it on your headstock during a live show. I’m begging you.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE LOOKING TO BUY A GUITAR
Stop reading internet forums and go to your local guitar shop. Ask for help. Try stuff out. Make your own decisions. And most American-made guitars come with a hard-shell case, or at least a gig bag. While there are some exceptions to that rule, if you buy a brand new American made guitar from a store make sure they’re not trying to sell you a case you already paid for in the price of the guitar. It’s something that’s been going on for years and we still see it, unfortunately.

THE BEST PART OF OWNING A GUITAR SHOP
Spending every day buying, selling, fixing, playing and discussing guitars is borderline not work. Don’t get me wrong—keeping this business rolling and taking care of all the employees and customers alike isn’t easy, but I can’t think of anything I would trade it for. I’m very lucky to enjoy my job as much as I do.