The population of New York City is about 8.3 million people, about 7ish million of which are in indie bands or are struggling artists, all trying to make it. There is also a cabal of capitalists who are trying to cash in on this demographic, charging upwards of 65 bucks a pop for a guitar set-up, and repair costs can soar up into the hundreds. What? You want a custom-built Telecaster pieced together with loving, skillful hands? Unless you’re a rich asshole, forget it. And, fuck off. Sincerely, NYC.
Richie’s Guitar Shop is located in the East Village. More I won’t say—he made me promise not to tell—and is one of those charmed places that will only appear to you if you already know it’s there. Richie, proprietor and sole employee, is a legendary guitar tech who has worked with some of New York’s most legendary bands and their guitars—themselves, also legends. It is a tiny one-bedroom apartment absolutely packed with guitars, basses, and parts; autographed pictures of notable rockers cover the walls (The Strokes, The Lunachicks, et al); they snarl and grimace down at you as you walk in, enthralled by this unofficial hall of fame, a place where guitars are born, reborn, and lovingly attended to.
About that custom-built Telecaster: Richie pieces together guitars of all kinds, but especially Fenders, what he with a certain gravitas calls “the working man’s guitar”. He has several vintage and used instruments for sale and can custom-build new guitars and basses however you want them. My favorites are the old workhorses, zombie Telecasters and resurrected Stratocasters made from a mish-mash of used and new parts. Everything is expertly crafted and he stands by all of his work—give the man your respect and he’ll be your guitar’s best friend.
Richie has no website. He doesn’t advertise or have flyers of any kind. His business card shows no address, just a phone number, which he also made me promise to hide. In that picture of him, grinning, surrounded by his craft, his arm is cunningly placed in order to hide the phone number printed on his Richie’s Guitar Shop t-shirt. Of his reclusiveness he maintains only that people who won’t work to find him will just end up wasting his time. Also, it makes him seem like a mad genius with a sort of Salinger-esque refusal to cooperate with those who wish to find him.
By: Ben Britz