The store’s walls were mostly empty but for some signed pictures, and a few guitars. Those few guitars were of quality.
There was a Bourgeois Small Jumbo acoustic costing $3,400. A Gibson Les Paul electric, a rare Martin electric. And while these instruments might excite guitar geeks, they’ll probably get more excited to learn where they hung: the Guitar Emporium.
The Highlands guitar store is set to re-open, likely by late August. Sherman Buschemeyer is the new owner, though all the former employees are returning. It’ll have the same Bardstown Road location, but Buschemeyer will refresh the four-decade old store.
Guitar Emporium closed in March. Owner Jimmy Brown had had enough, though business was good. The little store had a notable reputation, with clients including Keith Richards, ZZ Top, and U2.
Buschemeyer, 38, is on a mission.
“Ever since I can remember I’ve been coming to Guitar Emporium,” he said. “I wanted to do everything I could to keep the store, and keep the employees, and keep this part of Louisville.”
He’ll update the shop’s website, and barcode all gear so it can be scanned. He’ll also add new gear lines, such as Teye Guitars, and remove others.
A longtime bassist, Buschemeyer performed with the Big Diggity, a funk band, and heads medical diagnostics firm Kentuckiana Urodynamics.
Under Brown, Guitar Emporium had annual sales totaling $1.4 million. With his new computerized inventory system Buschemeyer will have to sell just 70 percent of that—but he wants more.
He’ll need sales to pay his loans. He borrowed $850,000 from Fifth Third Bank to buy the building, and get new inventory. He also got a $60,000, five-year, 5-percent interes, loan from Louisville’s Metropolitan Business Development Corporation, or METCO.
METCO liked that Buschemeyer is rehiring former employees, and that he put up his house for collateral, said Kurt Hummel, the agency’s economic development officer.
“He’s invested heavily into it, so you know he’s going to work all he can to keep it open, and to do well, and to grow the business,” Hummel said.
Such small businesses are important to Louisville , said Caroll Besse, co-owner of Carmichael’s Bookstore and an officer for the Louisville Independent Business Alliance, or LIBA. LIBA says $55 of every $100 spent at Louisville-owned stores stays in Louisville, versus $14 for chains.
She’s thrilled Louisville backed Buschemeyer.
“I think that’s wonderful news, because most of the economic development money, not only in Louisville, but nationally, tends to go to big chains,” Besse said.
Retail totals 10 percent of Louisville’s jobs. The metro area gained 900 retail jobs from June 2012 to June 2013, a 1.4 percent. Music stores totaled 131 Louisville jobs as of 2011, the latest date for which statistics were available.
Back to Buschemeyer. He’s excited—25 to 30 people knock on his closed door every day, ready to shop.
Keith Richards, so far, hasn’t been one. But Buschemeyer said he’s ready when he does.