A Note-Worthy Experience

  • Photo by Conrad Zobel
    Photo by Conrad Zobel
  • Shaun Tolson

It’s not uncommon for a guitar enthusiast to fly to St. Louis solely for some face time with Ed Putney, and in those circumstances Putney will arrange a car service to chauffeur that prospective customer to his shop. As the proprietor of Eddie’s Guitars (www.eddiesguitars.com), Putney has spent more than four decades molding the store into a boutique reserved only for high-end electric, acoustic, bass, and jazz guitars, as well as the handmade, hand-wound amplifiers that complement them. As James Tognoni, a frequent visitor, once said, “Going into the shop is almost a religious experience.”

Putney prefers that each customer makes an appointment prior to visiting, since that provides his staff with the necessary time to arrange one of the shop’s numerous soundproofed demo areas with the instruments, amplifiers, and effect pedals that most interest that particular customer. “We keep all demos in separate, soundproof areas,” Putney says. “The customer can get the fullness of what he wants to listen to without disturbing anyone else. Customers can come here and not be concerned about guitar lessons going on or people waiting around while kids play the drums. That just doesn’t happen here.”

That doesn’t mean Putney won’t accept impromptu customer visits, but each customer must be buzzed into the store. The simple black awning with gold lettering and the blacked-out windows might not look like much from the street, but once inside, customers often go slack-jawed when confronted by 6,000 square feet of retail space dedicated only to exclusive guitars made by more than 30 elite luthiers. When selecting the manufacturers for his inventory, Putney focuses on form and function as well as each luthier’s reputation, and he says making his choices also requires quite a bit of foresight. “The demand for high-quality guitars definitely exceeds the amount of high-end builders,” he says. “Years ago we invested in a very in-depth inventory, so we have made the commitment to have all of these products in stock.”

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