If you drive past the main parts of the city, ignoring landmarks like the hip South Wedge neighborhood, Eastman School of Music, and, uh, the Genesee Brew House, you’ll have made it to the bucolic Irondequoit suburbs. There’s a whole lot of nothing, the Seneca Park Zoo, and the House of Guitars.
At first glance, the House of Guitars looks normal. Its storefront resembles, well, a house, and you might miss it if not for a large, mustard yellow sign.
Then you look more closely and you see all the stuff. Now that it’s the holiday season, House of Guitars’ windows are filled with holiday knicknacks. Gleaming, colorful string lights, red stockings, tiny velveteen elves, and many, many instruments.
These windows are only practice for what you’re about to see inside. It’s impossible not to let out an exhale, or some private recognition of “wow” when you enter and have your entire visual field swarmed with guitars. I’m sure no one has ever said that House of Guitars is inaccurately named.
There’s a big tube filled with rare, famous guitars right in the middle of the room. Surrounding it are music books of all kinds, where Ed Sheeran stared at me from the cover of one while I looked around the store.
The main floor is made up of glass rows of instruments, creating narrow walkways where you can marvel through the glass or pick something up to test out. There was a guitar that looked like a bloody battle axe. There was a mandolin that looked like a banjo. There were amps upon amps, and keyboards, and a stage, and synthesizers. There were expensive things, and there were affordable things. There were famous things, and there were things waiting to become famous.
This all sounds overwhelming, and it was, but the environment is very no-pressure. Admittedly, I can be on edge when entering music stores. As a woman, sometimes what is meant to be a fun record store trip turns into the old man at the counter “Do you know what music is?”-ing you until you want to cry.
House of Guitars has a humidifier, and clientele who are too hard to interact with amidst all the shit in the way. The staff isn’t overbearing. This is good for anyone who loves to browse, unbothered, for hours.
You can browse even longer in the downstairs CD and records section, where the walls are lined with famous photographs and memorabilia, and the floor is stocked with CDs, cassettes, boxed sets, special editions, and more physical music recordings than I think I’ve ever seen in my life. You can shop for the latest BTS video game while getting your dad his favorite Dolly Parton vinyl. And also marvel at the framed Dolly Parton autograph on the wall next to it.
The House of Guitars exists somewhere between music store, record store, and museum. It’s very much the stuff of legends, a multi-headed, beautiful beast you didn’t intend to find on your quest, but here it is. Go see what’s inside.