Rock On! Guitarworks Marks 30-Year Anniversary

Writer  /  Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer  /  Brian Brosmer

Guitarworks, a privately owned music store in Greenwood, celebrates 30 years of helping to make beautiful music. Owner Kevin Franklin founded the store in 1987, but it’s been located at SR135 and Smith Valley Road for the past 22 years.

Prior to launching the business, Franklin taught guitar and related instruments, advising students as they progressed in their abilities.

“I saw the need for a higher quality and caliber of service in the area,” Franklin says. “Plus, Greenwood was in desperate need for a one-stop-shop music store.”

Though the idea to open his own store had been percolating for some time, he was busy not only teaching but also performing as an acoustic soloist, booking 100-plus gigs annually.

“It was a lot of fun, but in ’87, I decided to pursue this other dream,” says Franklin, putting 100 percent dedication into the 13,000-square foot store where he sells a large selection of entry-level and mid-priced products as well as hundreds of high-end American-made instruments. The store sells guitars and all fretted and folk instruments such as mandolins, banjos and ukuleles. They also sell professional audio, amplifiers, keyboards and drums.

The store also offers private 30-minute lessons to all ages and stages for just $20. With 23 instruction studios, their 34 instructors see more than a thousand pupils per week, providing instruction in guitar, piano, horns, percussion and voice. Franklin estimates that 40 percent of students are adults.

“Many are starters, and many are start-over people who used to play before life got in the way,” says Franklin, noting that some are avid hobbyists who have hit the creative wall and are looking to expand their knowledge. Others are professionals who are interested in studying different styles.

Service is also a large part of what they do as they are meticulous about calibration and set-up of the instruments.

“We have Deric Rush, the best in-house luthier in the Midwest,” says Franklin, noting some ways they have set themselves apart from chain and Internet stores.

For instance, Guitarworks has founded many nationally and internationally instituted programs. Taylor Guitars, the number one acoustic American guitar manufacturer, has a program called The Taylor Road Show, which was born on Guitarworks’ stage and is now on three continents.

In addition, Trace Elliot amplifiers named an entire division after the store.

“On the Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over tour, all of the guitar amps on stage were Trace Elliot Guitarworks amplifiers,” Franklin says.

And in 1995, when Guitarworks moved to this location, Jim Marshall of Marshall Amplification presented Franklin with the world’s largest amplifier.

“So, we have the one-and-only Mighty Marshall here on display,” Franklin says. “We’ve gone beyond just being the average guitar store. We’ve done some things that have made an impact in our industry.”

Ten years ago, Guitarworks started a program called Band Builders where they group players together based on age and skill to form performing bands. The groups rehearse for six weeks and then do a full-tilt show on stage with lights and video in front of a live audience.

“These are the teen bands who are the high school heroes as well as the adult bands that play the circuits,” Franklin says.

They’ve even launched bands who are internationally touring.

The Guitarworks stage, however, is not just used for Band Builders shows. They also do clinics, concerts, workshops and seminars. The stage also hosts a who’s who of performers — from bluegrass staples like Doc Watson to metal gods such as Terry King and progressive virtuosos like Joe Satriani.

It’s all part of Franklin’s dream come true. Because ever since he first picked up a guitar at six years old, it’s all he’s ever wanted to do.

“It’s not like I thought I was God’s gift to the guitar, but I was a good performer who could make a living at it, so I was happy,” Franklin says.

As for these past 30 years, running the family store with his wife, Rene, who manages the office, and his two grown children, who work as instructors, he’s found contentment there, too.

“This is not just my store,” Franklin says. “It’s my life.”

And thanks to Franklin’s dedication and that of his staff, it’s life for many other families in the Greenwood area as well. For time and again, they have seen how the infusion of music into a family has completely transformed its dynamic. It all starts when parents come into Guitarworks to purchase their youngster their first guitar. Sporting a nervous yet hopeful expression, they choose the instrument, sign the child up for lessons, and say, “We’ll see how it goes!” 

“Next thing you know, a decade has passed and we have our tearful goodbyes when these students head off to college,” says Franklin, who says that often lessons become a family affair as brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers follow suit.

“We often hear, ‘Music is becoming our family’s number one thing!’” he says.

And that’s music to Franklin’s ears.

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