CARLSBAD — Just a couple of miles north of the Museum of Making Music is another iconic musical venue, Buffalo Bros. Guitars.
Buffalo Bros. was started by Bob Page, a founding member of the ‘60s and ‘70s group, The Association.
Adrian Demain is manager of Buffalo Bros. and a guitarist with Brawley, a San Diego-based band nominated for “Best Americana” music at the 2011 San Diego Music Awards.
“When Bob got married his wife said, ‘You can’t have all these instruments,’” he said, smiling. “His way of staying around them was to open a store.”
In the late ‘80s, Page opened Tradition Music in Leucadia, a reference to his background as a folk music guitarist and preference for traditional musical instruments.
“Bob’s brother, Tim, had a guitar store in L.A. that specialized in electric guitars,” Demain recalls. “They merged the stores and became Buffalo Bros.”
With the increased inventory, the store relocated to an industrial space in Carlsbad and later to its current location at 4901 El Camino Real.
“Today, Buffalo Bros. is one of the largest guitar stores of its kind in Southern California,” Demain said.
While the Internet has cornered the market on mainstream guitars, Demain said theirs is a niche market of high-end collectors and established clientele “treating themselves to guitars they’ve always wanted.”
“What helps us stay afloat is that we don’t steer toward the everyday items,” he said. “Here, it’s more about quality.”
The store has an inventory of hundreds of stringed instruments that include acoustic, resonator and electric guitars as well as ukuleles, mandolins and banjos. The collection includes a 100-year-old, German-crafted guitar zither and antique parlor guitars traditionally played by women.”
“Until the 1940s, playing the guitar wasn’t a guy thing,” explained the store’s historian, Steve Green. “Guitars caught on with the jazz bands in the late 1920s when they invented resonators.”
Martin and Taylor guitars are Buffalo Bros.’ “bread and butter” along with Collings, Dana Bourgeouis and Santa Cruz. They also represent one-of-a-kind guitars handcrafted by Rob Ehlers and James Goodall.
“Vintage guitars set the standard of what good guitars should sound like,” Demain said. “These manufacturers are able to capture the sound of a vintage guitar, while making it state of the art.”
Throughout history, Demain explained that the best guitars have been made with a spruce top and Brazilian rosewood back and sides. With the destruction of rainforests, today’s guitars come with a certificate of sustainability, asserting that no Brazilian rosewood was used, only older pieces.
“Now, they are using Madagascar rosewood,” he said. “It’s similar in quality while being more sustainable.”
Guitar student Eduardo Guzman, 10, represents a new generation that prefers the sound and feel of a fine guitar to computer-generated music. His likes to visit Buffalo Bros. to demonstrate how he can make a guitar sound “happy” and “sad” to his cousins. “It’s beautiful,” he said, “I like the Taylor guitar.” Eduardo aspires to one day perform like his guitar heroes, Carlos Santana and Ritchie Valens.
Buffalo Bros. gets their instruments through their presence at guitar shows. They also participate in local bluegrass festivals including the upcoming Summergrass on Aug. 19 through Aug. 21 at the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum in Vista.
Buffalo Bros. Guitars is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, visit buffalobrosguitars.com or call (760) 434-4567.