The Valley Independent Sentinel met up with Bob Pieper, owner of GuitarFixer Bob LLC at 167 Main Street in Seymour, next to the Strand Theater, and asked him all about his new guitar venture.
Hear him jam in front of the shop at Seymour’s First Night on Nov. 6.
Valley Indy: What inspired you to come to Seymour?
Pieper: I co-owned One Flight Up Guitars/Amity Music in Amity. I wanted to scale back a bit and concentrate on repairs and selling vintage guitars and parts while also offering a lesson program. I looked at a lot of spaces in the area, but the Seymour site fit all my needs. I live in Bethany, so it’s close by, and the shop size was just right. The vibe downtown — with all the antique stores, restaurants, the Strand Theater and the train station — is great. It’s also convenient for my out-of-town, and out-of-state, clients. The people in town — residents, merchants and officials — have been so helpful. The town welcomes and encourages businesses; many other towns don’t.
Valley Indy: What are your hours?
Pieper: Tuesday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The phone number is 203-881-0077 and the email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Valley Indy: Where and how long were you in business before this?
Pieper: My partner and I opened One Flight Up Guitars/Amity Music in 2003. Before that, I operated as Guitar Service. I was based in a warehouse on Canal Street in Shelton, but traveled regularly to Manhattan where I worked out of a van. My clients included the David Letterman show, the Conan O’Brien show, the Ricki Lake talk show and many professional session players and jingle houses. I started that business in 1995, shortly after I returned to Connecticut from Los Angeles.
Valley Indy: What was your training for this trade?
Pieper: My father was a toolmaker for Bic in Milford; he taught me how to use tools. I started playing guitar when I was 11, and built my first guitar when I was 16. That’s when I started working for Brian Guitars in New Haven, doing maintenance around the store, restringing guitars and watching the people there work on guitars.
I went to Los Angeles with my band, XYZ, in the mid 1980s, and started working for Ace Music in Santa Monica while also playing. At Ace, I worked on all types of guitars for all kinds of people, including well-known musicians like Jackson Browne and Rod Stewart. I moved back and forth between L.A. and New York City, where I apprenticed with the famous guitar maker John Suhr at Rudy’s Music. Suhr taught me the right way to re-fret guitars, as well as how to work on the electronics. I’ve been developing my skills ever since.
Valley Indy: What are your specialties?
Pieper: I am a luthier, which means I make instruments, as well as repair them. On the repair side, my fret jobs are my specialty. I spend the time to do it right; I sand and measure the finger board, and fit each fret precisely. For valuable vintage guitars, I modify the fret to the guitar while leaving the original instrument untouched.
Valley Indy: How do you differentiate yourself from other guitar shops in the region?
PIeper: I am a time-tested guitar player and luthier, who can tailor a new or vintage guitar to meet the needs of serious players as well as enthusiasts. My clients’ guitars are adjusted to their needs, not to factory specs. I have an extensive collection of vintage parts, so can usually find the right part for any job. I’m also offering an Internet purchase assessment service. Clients who buy a guitar online but want a little peace of mind can come to me and, for $30, I’ll look over the guitar’s “vital signs” – the truss rod, the electronics, the finish, etc. – to make sure they know what they’re buying. I’ll do the assessment on the spot, so clients can return the guitar immediately if they’re not satisfied. I’ll also give them a 10 percent discount on their next set up or repair for that instrument.
Valley Indy: Who are some of your famous customers?
Pieper: I’ve worked on instruments for Peter Frampton, Mark Knopfler, Brian Setzer, Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Jon Bon Jovi, Jackson Browne and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Valley Indy: Is rock music dying? The Billboard Top 100 singles chart today is full of country and dance music.
Pieper: No way. The younger generation still gets excited when they hear — and play — hard rock, rock-n-roll and blues music. What’s so cool is the idea of a lead guitar “hero” is making a comeback. I mean the front man, band leader kind — remember Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen — not the video game! But maybe the fun people are having playing “Guitar Hero” is translating to some real-life hero worship. Maybe it’s inspirational, because the guitar solo is back; I can hear them whenever I listen to today’s radio.
Valley Indy: You have been open two months. What contributions do you make on the Seymour First Night series, on the first Saturday night of each month?
Pieper: We’ve been open until 9 p.m. for the last two events, offering wine, cheese, cookies, soda and water to visitors. For the October first night, I brought in a few muscians to jam in front of the store, which I hope to do again Nov. 6.