NORTH CENTER — Joey Elarde started coming to Andy's Music Store more a decade ago when he was a 16-year-old guitar player.
Now Elarde, 26, of Lincoln Square, can't help but drop in when he passes the store at 2300 W. Belmont Ave.
On Tuesday afternoon, he wandered the store stopping at whatever funky new instrument caught his eye. This time it was a strum stick — a threer-stringed instrument similar to a guitar, designed to be easy to play.
"A lot of these instruments you don't even know what they are, but you pick them up and run with it. You kinda just walk in, and if you're a music lover you're going to pick up something," Elarde said as he played a chord he's been practicing on the strum stick.
For more than a decade, Andy's Music Store has been a destination for music lovers from near and far looking to buy and sell and instruments from all over the world. The collection of 6,000 instruments includes theremins, Indian sitars, tablas, harmoniums, Egyptian ouds, Paraguayan harps, Chinese gongs, Australian didgeridoos, African djembes and Turkish doumbeks, earning the store the nickname "the world's best music store" from customers.
"It's something people [told] us when they traveled up here from Tennessee and Texas. We get people from other countries who say it, so it's something we took to heart after hearing. There might be a guy in Dubai kicking [our] butt, but I haven't met him yet," said Suzanne Monk, who works at the store with her husband, Alexander Duvel.
But when a trio of musicians from Budapest walked into the store trying to unload a couple of European violins Tuesday afternoon, shop manager Duvel was forced to explain the store's dilemma.
"We're just not in that business right now. We're trying to buy the store; we can't buy instruments," Duvel said after studying one of the violins and determining it was made in Italy in 1901 and could retail between $4,000 and $5,000, a bit pricey for the store.
About two weeks ago, after they learned the store's owner was going to close it, Duvel and Monk decided to launch a GoFundMe to buy it. Since they launched the campaign on Feb. 16, they've received pledges of more than $5,000 toward their goal of $100,000.
"It makes me want to cry because people have been so understanding. One of our competitors even donated. They told us they wanted us to stay in business. It's been really uplifting just to hear people's feelings about this place and that they're willing to give up their hard earned money into our vision," Monk said.
That vision includes being open longer, having more music lessons and getting permits to host events. They hope to make the new store, Worlds of Music Chicago, a community place for musicians to gather and jam, Monk said.
While the couple is optimistic they realize they have a long way to go to meet their goal of saving the 40,000-square-foot store, Monk said.
"The fact is Andy will close this store by the end of August. If we don't buy it by then it does not exist," Monk said.
If the couple can't come up with the money by then Elarde said he doesn't know where he'll go to satisfy his next itch for a new instrument.
"You can go to Guitar Center or wherever, but this is the only place I know with this huge variety of instruments," Elarde said. "This place deserves support. You feel bad it's like a museum when you walk in here. It's a shame ... a real shame."
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