The Underground Candy Store
Stay Tuned Guitars in Circa 1857 opens storefront to vinyl sales, Japanese toys, and everything independent
By Christie MathernePosted Apr 11, 2012
Taking a stroll through the courtyard of the huge Circa 1857 building is one of the best ways to spend a sunny afternoon in Baton Rouge. Next time you do, you might spot a building you haven’t noticed before labeled Stay Tuned Guitars. If you have noticed it before, you’ll likely find something different at the counter upon your next visit…and it might resemble a candy store.
“That’s what we want it to feel like,” said Owner Max Hatcher.
About six months ago, Hatcher, a 22-year-old professional guitar repairman, opened Stay Tuned Guitars in the Circa 1857 neighborhood to house his repair business. Hatcher’s actual repair shop encompasses the back end of the cottage, and outside of the beautiful restored guitar collection adorning the walls, the front of the store has been somewhat minimalist.
Recently, partner Jachob Taylor moved into the front of the store with two things: his vinyl collection and his dog Bosco. After that, things got a little…louder.
“I’m doing a lot of work to spruce up the ‘storefront’ part,” said Taylor.
Since Taylor set up shop, Stay Tuned Guitars is the only place in Baton Rouge that offers independent wares – vinyl, comics, and literature (or “‘zines,” if you will) – and as far as they know, there isn’t another place in the city that sells the ever-D.I.Y. Slingshot Organizer.
“A lot of the ‘zines are old issues, so we give them away for free,” Taylor said of the indie literature stack. “The JOB comics are independently released by a girl in New Orleans [named Egan], and I’ve been getting a handful of those Slingshot Organizers every year for people who want them in town.”
And, of course, there are the records.
Taylor isn’t new to selling vinyl, but this is the first time he’s operated inside of a place of business. He’s been ordering, releasing, and distributing vinyl online and via mail for several years now, under the moniker Levee Dog Records. His operation fits the definition of a “distro” – understood as a D.I.Y., largely not-for-profit purveyor of music and D.I.Y. items. His inventory in the past has been composed of independent releases, both local and worldwide. Since moving into Stay Tuned Guitars, he’s expanded his collection to include more widely known and older selections.
Vinyl from the likes of The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. serves to ease people into considering records that don’t often appear in physical music stores. A good chunk of his vinyl inventory remains largely unavailable in corporate music outlets, thereby reducing the likelihood of a potential fan “discovering” an independent band through browsing. Taylor is out to change that.
“I’m trying to have a lot of stuff in the store that kids are looking for,” said Taylor. “I want to expose people to music they might not have heard of otherwise. I’ve been trying to remember how I found all this music – how I first came upon it – and I think this is how it starts.”
Taylor has much to say about vinyl, but a sign to the left of his record shelves says everything he thinks about a more modern medium: “Free CDs.”
“Digital music’s not real,” he explained. “The CDs are free.”
The storefront doesn’t just appeal to vinyl fans. The shop now carries a strange and varied collection of items for sale: silk-screened t-shirts, imported Japanese gumballs, Dragonball toys, made-to-order pins (they can make any piece of paper into a pin), stickers, and a wall of local art for sale.
This “candy store” array is even better if you’re a guitar owner. Don’t let Hatcher’s age mislead you. He’s a certified luthier, with sole expertise in guitar repair, who stays true to the store’s name with an extensive guitar service menu: lessons, restoration, re-fretting, acoustic bridge removal and resetting, pick-up installation, knick repair, refinishing, and even same-day restringing.
_Stay Tuned Guitars offers professional guitar repair, lessons, and restorations; vinyl records; free CDs; independent ‘zines and comics; screen-printed t-shirts; Japanese toys, and more!
Where: 1857 Government St. (inside Circa 1857)
Hours: 12:15-6 p.m., or by appointment
Web: Weekly updates on new vinyl inventory can be found at www.Facebook.com/StayTunedGuitars.