By Rose Simone, Record staff – Wed Feb 08 2012
“I would often leave the shop not knowing when the repair would be ready, what might be wrong or what it would cost me,” Egan says. He vowed that some day, he would fix the problem by opening up his own guitar shop, one that focused on customer service.
In the early 1990s, he did just that. He opened Bob’s Guitar Service in Chicago. It was a huge success and grew to have five employees and was repairing 100 guitars a week when Egan sold that shop to his employees.
Now, although he is still with Blue Rodeo, he has opened up another Bob’s Guitar Service, this in downtown Kitchener in an old factory building next to the VIA train station.
The shop handles any type of guitar, amplifier or electronic music instrument repair. There’s also a small room where Egan showcases and sells vintage, boutique and consigned gear instruments in a partnership with Capsule Music in Toronto.
Egan was part of the bands Freakwater and Wilco in the United States before leaving Chicago and moving to Oxford, Miss., where he recorded his first album. In 2000, he moved to Canada to join Blue Rodeo and settled in Kitchener about six years ago.
During Egan’s last tour across Canada, fellow musician Wayne Petti of the band Cuff the Duke pulled him into every “cool guitar shop” in whatever community they were in. “That just fired up my passion and when I came back to Kitchener, I thought, I am a big fan of this town … why don’t I just open up a cool guitar store?”
At the moment, Blue Rodeo is taking a break while its frontman, Jim Cuddy, is on tour with the Jim Cuddy Band, so Egan figured it was a good time to launch the business.
Eventually, Egan will be back on the road with Blue Rodeo again, but when he’s not in town, the shop will be managed by his guitar technician, Ryan Allen, and his amp technician, Jordie Jackson.
The business has grown, mainly by word of mouth, and now has more than 300 clients. It is also getting work from big music retailers such as St. John’s Music.
Egan tries not to trade on his Blue Rodeo fame. “This business really stands on its own,” he says. Ultimately, when it comes to guitar service the quality of the work is what matters. “Musicians talk as much as they play, and when they have a good guitar repair, they will let their buddies know,” he says. “If you do a poor repair, believe me, it becomes an urban legend.”
Although Kitchener is not Chicago, which is known as home for the blues, Egan says this is a good place to locate the shop. “This is a heavy music town,” he says. He adds that Kitchener has many skilled craftspeople, such as coppersmiths and people with skills in refinishing guitars. He works in partnership with them to get jobs done.
Egan, who has a masters’ degree in industrial organizational psychology, says that although he no longer is a corporate consultant, “I am still fascinated by people and how their work fits into their lives.” It also gives him the intuitive understanding that a guitar repair is not just a guitar repair.
“I will ask the person what is going on with the guitar, and often, I will get a story such as, ‘Well, this was given to me when I was 16 by my mother, and she just passed away and I would like to do whatever it takes to get it running again,’” Egan says. “Every guitarist has an emotional connection to the guitar.”
He envisions Bob’s Guitar Service becoming “a hub for all the different guitar-playing constituencies in this region.” He hopes it will sell its own lines of products and also host workshops and seminars.
Egan still loves playing with Blue Rodeo. “That is my second family, and especially in this country, with the success the band has achieved, it is really an honour to be part of that,” he says.
Bob’s Guitar Service is something he enjoys in a different way. “I like being able to put the guitar in its case, knowing it’s going to sound great. I get a huge amount of satisfaction delivering that satisfaction to my clients. That’s the main thing.”