Local Conversations: Ryan MacAdam of Folkway Music

“Really, there’s not many stores like it in Canada.”


Stumbling through the door of Folkway Music after braving a sudden downpour of torrential rain, the familiar fragrance of aged wood was welcomed. Vintage six-strings lined the walls with pride, simply waiting for a passing customer to take them down to be played. All of this set to the harmonious sounds of guitars created an instantly warm and cozy atmosphere.

It was here that we met Ryan MacAdam, the current manager of Folkway Music. MacAdam began his career at the business in sales, obtaining the job through his good friend and former bandmate, who was the owner and manager at the time, and since then, MacAdam has taken over that role himself. Through his experiences with Folkway Music, both as a member of the staff and a musician, he said he has a good “sense of the company’s reputation,” and that “there’s not many stores like it in Canada,” which is why the original owner founded the shop in the first place.

Phonographs and lutes are simple examples of the musical decor that fills Folkway Music.

It is true: Folkway Music is unique in Waterloo for the diverse collection of fretted instruments they sell. However, it is difficult to ignore the fact that Long & McQuade, a large and successful chain music store, is only a block or two away. MacAdam is not worried about the competition, though. “We’re in a little bit different marketplace,” he said, matter-of-factly. “We’re sort of in a niche market, comparatively.” Long & McQuade is considered a general music store, as it sells a wide variety of music instruments and accessories, whereas Folkway Music mainly focuses on vintage, Canadian-made guitars, though the store also carries new guitars and ones from outside of Canada. MacAdam expanded on this, stating, “We do a lot of our business online, out of province and out of country.” For a specialty store, Folkway Music has a wide and international market that they cater to.

Another quality that sets Folkway Music apart from its neighbours is its genuine appreciation for history. Inside their store, they feature Canadian-made guitars that are rare or just simply interesting. MacAdams explained that while these particular instruments are not necessarily expensive, they are valuable for having “a bit of Canadiana history.”

Guitars and other fretted instruments are hung on nearly every wall.

Furthermore, proving their commitment to preserving history, Folkway Music houses a museum of sorts on their website. “Every instrument that comes through [our store], we heavily document with photographs and descriptions and document serial numbers and composition of the instruments and whatnot,” explained MacAdams. Even though these instruments are no longer available for sale, their information is available for people who are passionate about vintage and historical instruments.

Asking them about their future plans, MacAdams and a fellow employee joked, “Oh, it’s world domination!” More seriously, MacAdams expressed an underlying principle of their business: “We’re a specialty shop, we aim to be the best at what we do.” Looking around the store and listening to their company’s philosophy, it is clear that Folkway Music is aimed in the right direction.

Location: 22 Dupont Street East, Waterloo, ON

Website: www.folkwaymusic.com

For students: Lessons are coming soon to their Waterloo location. Stay tuned for more details.