January 22, 2017

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Guitar Emporium


Musician Neil Young inspired this teenager. Learn how a one-boy business turned into a $3 million empire.

Jimmy Brown always loved guitars.

At 15, he played them, and discovered he had a natural talent for repairing them.

One day a friend told him that rock star Neil Young was coming to their hometown of Louisville, KY and was looking for an early 60’s Gibson guitar. Brown didn’t have such a guitar, but the request inspired him.

The teen began buying vintage guitars at garage sales and local shops and restored the instruments into tip-top shape. Then, Brown’s mother would drive him to local concert halls and venues where big-name artists were getting ready to play a show. He would knock on the back door, and offer to show his goods to the musicians.

Amazingly, the bold move worked.

Little Jimmy sold his guitars to the likes of Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, and Eric Clapton.

His one- boy business grew, and soon Brown owned and operated Guitar Emporium, a sprawling 5,000 square foot store that offers a staggering selection of instruments including new, used, and of course, refurbished guitars.

With annual revenues ranging from $1-3 million, Guitar Emporium catered to the stars, including Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crowe, and U2.

Guitar Emporium, Jimmy Brown

Life was good for Jimmy Brown and his wife and co-owner Mary Jane Aboud. But in 2013, they decided to end things on a good note. After almost 40 years of doing what he loved, Brown announced plans to retire and shut down Guitar Emporium.

A happy ending for Brown, maybe, but the news didn’t sit well with Louisville musician Sherman Buschemeyer. He’d been a longtime regular at Guitar Emporium, and didn’t want to see it close. So with the help of a loan from the city, Bushemeyer bought the business and the building, rehired the entire staff, and reopened the store on August 31, 2013.

Employee Eric Whorton told the Courier Journal about a visit former owner Jimmy Brown made to the store shortly before its reopening.

“Jimmy has definitely given us his blessing, but it’s funny — he was in here the other day checking it out and he started rearranging guitars on the wall, putting them where he would have displayed them. I just kept walking along behind him, putting them back where we had them.”

Sometimes it’s hard to let go.

Jimmy Brown exemplifies one of our Business Axioms for Entrepreneurs:  Pursue your passion.

Restore vintage guitars and immediately go knocking on your rock god’s door. Now Why Didn’t I Think of That!?!?

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