“It’s the serving of the client that actually comes many times before us making a sale. It’s important. We feel that we have this responsibility to educate and serve the population.”
The colourful swathes of fabric and tapestries billowed down from the ceiling as I walked into Bob’s Guitar Service. The small shop, hidden at the side of a Kitchener building, was lined with couches in the cozy main room, warmly inviting eager customers to take a seat.
Sitting on one of these couches, I was able to talk to Bob Egan, a member of the famous Canadian band Blue Rodeo and formerly a member of the band Wilco. He started a guitar repair business in 1990 in Chicago called Bob’s Guitar Service. After selling it to the employees, he continued touring as a musician until five years ago, when he decided to create another business, also called Bob’s Guitar Service, here in Waterloo Region. Today, the business is flourishing under the steadfast value of serving the community and its clients.
Egan originally started this business because of his love for guitar repair. “I really get a lot of personal satisfaction [from it],” he told me. He also started this business because he saw there was “a big need for an amazing … high-quality shop” in the region. Years later, he said he is still happy with the choice of locating his business in Waterloo Region, a supportive community that he asserts is proud of their small, independent-business roots.
Bob’s Guitar Service stands apart in several ways. Their main model is focused on the best possible customer service. Egan explained that when a client comes in for a repair, “they will leave knowing exactly how their guitar works, exactly why [something] is not working, what we’re going to do and they’ll be able to tell the difference. We educate our clients.” Bob’s Guitar Service is also dedicated to finding out a solution to every problem: “If you have a question and we can’t answer it, we’ll get on the phone and answer it. [If] you need a part and we don’t have it, we’ll call our competition, and we’ll find you the part.”
Another feature of Bob’s Guitar Service is their staff. Everyone who works on the guitars plays professionally and they draw from this experience to decide on everything from turnaround to the quality and pricing of the repair. Egan explained that he considers the shop to be “the resource for all things guitar.”
Surprisingly, while music can be a difficult business, Egan doesn’t find competition to be a problem. He outlined how the business model is not competition; one way to eliminate competition is not to focus on retail. While many might think the repair business is not big enough, Egan explained, “Every guitar that’s sold, whether it’s sold on Kijiji or Long and McQuade, needs to be repaired [eventually].”
Bob’s Guitar Service shows their community-mindedness in many ways, most recently in its partnership with The School of Rock on a new charity initiative called “One Hundred Guitars for One Hundred Kids,” which provides underprivileged children with guitars. Its first client, the YWCA, is planning to run a rock weekend for young girls in order to get them interested in playing music, and Egan’s business has donated 12 guitars to the initiative.
Most impressively, Egan does more than just perform in Blue Rodeo and run his own business. Three years ago, Egan also began as the coordinator for Modern Audio Arts, a collection of courses at Conestoga College to “help prepare people for working in the new digital arena of creating audio.” Now, the courses have kept growing and they are planning on offering two new ones in January: creating a record from start to finish, and audio for gaming. All of these courses are open to the public.
While Egan humbly describes himself as “merely the gatekeeper” of his business, he clearly has much more of an impact on his clients, as well as the community. For all he does, Egan’s goal for the business is simple: he aims to make it “just a cool place to be.”
Location: 342 Victoria St. North, Kitchener, ON