The Story

In May 2001, I was spending much of my time buying guitars for my personal collection and enjoying my time with my wife Mary and our children, Maxwell, 9 and Katherine 3 months old.

Things were pretty hectic in our house with an infant and the four of us there together all day long. On a good day, I am told that I have an eclectic personality, at worst, I can be somewhat annoying. So to save my marriage and family, I decided to do something I had always wanted to do…open a guitar store.

Not just any type of guitar store, I wanted to create a place where people would feel comfortable enough to want to just sit and play music for hours if they felt like it. A destination, a musical retreat as different from a "Guitar Center" as I could make it. I wanted to create an environment where it was about the music and friendships and less about "selling" people guitars. The plan worked, for me at least. I met two of my best friends , Bonnie & Dennis O'Hanlon in the store one rainy night.

Once the decision was made, It was time to find a suitable location. After a good deal of searching, I finally located a 4,000 square foot store front in Hermosa Beach California on pacific Coast Highway. After a few weeks of negotiations, I signed the lease on June 21, 2001. I drew up the blueprints for Gotham Guitars, hired a contractor and the renovation began.

The build-out went smoothly and with in 3 months we constructed a 200 SQ FT performance stage, teaching rooms, storage areas, custom front counter and a full service Lutherie (repair shop). In order to create the ambiance I wanted, I furnished the store with several large sofas, cushy chairs and coffee tables. All that was missing were the guitars.

With a desire to fill the store with high end acoustic guitars, we became authorized dealers for Martin Guitars, Breedlove, Santa Cruz, Rainsong, Tacoma, National, Gibson Epiphone, Brawley, Tennessee Crafters and others. I continued my buying spree purchasing vintage instruments from around the country. Eventually, I had a little bit of everything from the high-end to the extremely high-end. Along with acoustic amplifiers, sheet music, strings and accessories, we were almost ready to open. Now all I needed were instructors, a luthier and a sales staff.

With the hiring of Bobby Joe Smith and a solid staff of instructors, we were almost ready to open. I was planning on a mid September opening. This would give us enough time to work out the kinks, design an advertising campaign and be ready for the holiday season.

Mary and I were excited that the store was just about ready to open. There were still a few finishing touches to the build out that needed to be completed, but nothing could stop us now. That was until on a Tuesday morning, I was lying in bed with mary and Katherine when my mother called. She said turn on the TV, a small plane had crashed in to one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. The day was September 11, 2001 and it was not a small plane. Our lives and the lives of the nation were changed forever on that day. Like most Americans, we were devastated and glued to our TV all day. I will leave 9/11 at that, as this is about Gotham Guitars.

It was a tough start for the store. Emotions were running high and the store just didn't seem as important to me as it did before. With everything that had happened, I delayed the opening until the day before Thanksgiving. It was a very unceremonious opening and I worked those first days alone.

Time heals all wounds and so we moved forward. We began Open Mic nights every Thursday night and from the beginning had great crowds and talented performers. We sponsored workshops with Martin Guitar, Tacoma and others. As I had hoped, people came. They sat on the sofas and stayed and played for hours. From blues great Doug MacLeod to my Fed Ex delivery guy, to Myron Barnett, my UPS driver. I was amazed almost every day by the talent possessed by the people attracted to Gotham Guitars.

I have always said that, owning Gotham Guitars, was the best job I ever had. I mean, let's face it. How many of us get to get up everyday, sit basically in your living room and play the guitar all day long. and as an added bonus, friends stop by, grab a guitar off the wall and join in.

All good things must come to an end. I sold the store to one of my employees in 2003. In 2009 the store was closed. This site is a tribute to the store and the many fabulous friendships that I made there and still maintain today.

So, in the spirit of Gotham Guitars, like the sign says, "Please Observe the 5 Minute Rule". For those of you that have forgotten, the 5 Minute Rule states, "IF YOU DON'T PICK UP A GUITAR AND PLAY SOMETHING IN THE FIRST 5 MINUTES, THEN GET THE HELL OUT!"

I can't begin to tell you how much Gotham Guitars meant to me and my family. It was a place of joy and music. My kids loved it and treated it like their own living room, and that is how I meant it to be.

Thank you,
Peter Yollin

Peter Yollin & Dennis O'Hanlon
~ Peter Yollin & Dennis O'Hanlon Playing a Tune ~

Dennis & Bonnie O'Hanlon ~ Bonnie & Dennis O'Hanlon ~

Maxwell Yollin & The 5 Minute Rule ~ Maxwell Yollin & the 5 Minute Rule ~

Doug MacLeod
~ Blues Great, Doug MacLeod ~

Gotham Guitars Neon
~ Looking In From The Outside ~


a peter yollin project © 2010
a peter yollin project © 2010