House of Guitars – Rochester, New York - Atlas Obscura

House of Guitars

The largest guitar store in the world has been visited by some of music's all-time greats passing through upstate New York. 


Les Paul, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Metallica, Marc Maron, and Garth Brooks may not seem to have much in common, but they are just a sampling of the celebrities who have made a point of visiting the House of Guitars while in Rochester, New York.

The Largest Guitar Store in the World, as it is known, was founded in 1964 by Armand and Bruce Schaubroek in their mother’s basement. Both brothers were working other jobs and selling guitars by night.

The House of Guitars quickly distinguished itself when the Beatles first came to America and it was already carrying Vox amplifiers, the kind used by George Harrison, which no other American stores had. The store catered to a younger crowd, selling more affordable guitars than other shops.

During its first eight years, the House of Guitars bounced around the Rochester area, and the brothers made music of their own. Armand Schaubroek’s songs about his time in prison caught the attention of Andy Warhol, who planned to make a movie based around them. It fell by the wayside while Warhol recovered from being shot.

In 1972, the House of Guitars moved into its current home, the Grange Hall building in Irondequoit, which had been used in the early 1900s as a place for famers to gather for community meetings, performances, and dances. The House of Guitars filled all three floors, and the brothers even bought and connected adjacent buildings, which gives the store a labyrinthine feel.

The House of Guitars has music equipment, recordings, a recording studio, a music school, videos, memorabilia, an in-house repair shop, and more. It even has its own stage, used for free concerts from local and touring bands. The walls are covered with the messages and signatures of so many traveling acts that it can be hard to distinguish one from the other.

Among the store’s slogans are “The Store That Ate My Brain” and “The House Of Guitars Is Cooler Than Hollywood,” and the oldest, which was a fan’s suggestion, “For the rising young stars from Earth,” all of which are printed on the store’s own t-shirts. Trippy television advertisements made between the 1960s and 1980s on 16mm film still air on local Rochester stations late at night.


Know Before You Go

If you're looking to buy music, movies, t-shirts and other items, the music store itself is down a series of corridors behind the equipment/instrument section. The music store is more of a large rummage sale with bins piled messily with offerings of vinyl, CDs, cassettes, DVD/Blu-Ray movies, old music magazines, boxed sets, collectibles and a large collection of rock t-shirts. There's really no discernible system of organization. Browsing is encouraged but you're looking for something specific, ask for help, any one of the employees will take you directly to what you're looking for. Best place to find them is at the cash registers but you can also see them stalking about the store.

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