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Antique Guitar Shop Offering Rare Finds Opens in East Village

By Elizabeth Barber | April 9, 2013 8:50am

EAST VILLAGE — TR Crandall Guitars looks like an art gallery — bright, with a windowed storefront that invites in the spring light. The airy space has roughly 40 antique guitars displayed on its exposed brick walls, painted in rich hues ranging from green to brown to black, hung like delicate objects d'art.

Except these guitars — with the exception of one very rare instrument — are meant to be played.

TR Crandall, which opened Monday morning at 179 E. Third St. after teasing its antique wares last month, is looking to establish itself as the go-to spot for vintage and restored guitars, some of which are more than 100 years old. 

Among the guitars now on sale is a green-colored, steel guitar that dates from 1930 and has a parrot painted on its front and a tiny finch on its back, as well as a sleek L-7 blonde guitar that dates back 60 years.

Alex Whitman, the store’s co-owner, called that guitar the one he would rescue “if the place were burning down and I could only save one,” as he strummed it the morning the shop opened. It sells for $5,995.

Also included in the collection is a colorful, 1969 Buck Owens-style guitar that was at that time sold through Sears for $99. It now retails for about $3,000, according to Whitman, a musician who has about a decade of experience working in guitar stores.

The only guitar in the shop not meant to be played these days is a particularly rare guitar, circa  1930 and priced at $23,000. Painted with sunset-like black and orange Hawaiian landscapes, it was one of just two ever made, he said.

In addition to the items upstairs, TR Crandall has about 30 guitars awaiting restoration downstairs in co-owner Tom Crandall’s cramped workroom. Crandall, who got his start collecting and repairing guitars while studying Shakespeare as a P.h.D student in Iowa, and who comes with 13-years of experience at Matt Umanov Guitars, has already made his expert mark on many of the guitars for sale upstairs. His work includes a refinished Gibson guitar that has been repainted a glossy black and cut to have an edgy yet curved shape.

“Anytime a collector or a musician walks in here," Crandall said, "we want to guarantee that they’ll find at least three to four guitars they’ve never seen before."