By Steve Wiandt
GateHouse Media Ohio
Published: July 20, 2018 - 7:44 AM | Updated: July 20, 2018 - 10:23 PM
CUYAHOGA FALLS: Mike Pekar has been helping his customers make beautiful music for 20 years.
Pekar Music Co. at 2735 Front St. is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Pekar opened his business on June 8, 1998. Up until that point he had been working in music stores around Akron and Barberton as well as Houston, Texas. He’s been playing guitars since 1963 and selling them since 1969.
In the 1980s, Pekar played bass in a pop rock band called the Kids that had a record and opened for acts like Joan Jett and Peter Frampton. The Kids, which included a harmonica player, played hit songs by popular groups at that time like J. Geils Band and Huey Lewis and the News.
After nearly 30 years of working for someone else, Pekar said he decided he wanted to be his own boss. He first opened his shop on Portage Trail between Third and Fourth streets. When he opened his doors he had six guitars and $600 worth of S.I.T. brand guitar strings (made in Akron) hanging on the wall, along with some posters. He also had some record albums. Rent was $400 a month for 1,500 square feet of space.
“I had $600 in the bank and I was wondering how I was going to pay the UPS driver,” he said. “The UPS trucks were pulling up with merchandise and I had to pay them [cash] because I wasn’t established … at that time.”
Pekar said he had intended to repair only stringed instruments and amplifiers, but many of the sales reps who knew him tracked him down and urged him to sell their guitars and amps again.
“Before I knew it, I was back in the music business,” he said.
“Back then, it was fun and exciting,” Pekar said. “We had a small store but we had a huge selection of electric guitars and acoustic guitars. I did it all myself, and did pretty well.”
Around 2001, Pekar bought another shop’s inventory of guitars and amps, which he was able to sell. But parking had always been an issue. Around that same time, he moved his growing business to a large space on Bailey Road across from Acme. Pekar said business was OK on Bailey Road, but parking was still an issue.
In 2010, Pekar moved to 2735 Front St. into a former dance studio that was originally a Lawson’s convenience store. Finally, he had enough parking with 100 spaces, including handicapped spots in front. And he had a larger building — 3,500 square feet.
Pekar sells a variety of musical instruments, amplifiers, equipment and accessories, and does instrument repair. He has a wide selection of acoustic and electric guitars. He also has violins, keyboards, saxophones, clarinets, trombones and pretty much any instrument a high school band student could need. Band instruments can be rented or repaired.
“Since moving here we’ve evolved into a full-line family music store,” he said. “We have three guitar techs, two amp techs, violin repairman, brass and woodwind repairman, 11 music instructors.”
Pekar has six studios where a variety of lessons are offered.
Over the years, the store has served as a place where musicians of all levels, collectors, youth and families can gather and interact with each other.
And even some high-profile musicians.
“It’s evolved into a meeting place for the community,” Pekar said. “At any given moment we might have Phil Keaggy (of Glass Harp) come in here … Dan Auerbach (of the Black Keys) came in and bought a Vintage Silvertone amp. You never know who’s going to pop in.”
One day a man wandered in and asked Pekar if he had any Elixir strings in stock. Pekar said no, but he sold a string just as durable made by Martin.
“A lot of popular guitar players are using these strings,” he said. “John Mayer. Paul McCartney. And, Phil Keaggy.”
“I’m Phil Keaggy,” the customer said.
Pekar was incredulous.
“No, you’re not,” he said.
“Yes, I am,” Keaggy replied. This back-and-forth went on for a minute or two until finally Pekar believed this customer was, in fact, the founder of Glass Harp. As it turned out, Keaggy’s sister-in-law lives in the Falls and while his wife was visiting he thought he’d pop into the music store.
“So I took him on a tour of the store and he played Beatles songs on the acoustic guitars,” Pekar said.
Pekar said he is gratified that over the past two decades so many have found or furthered their love of music through his store.
“It’s been a great ride,” he said.
Pekar Music Co. is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday. The phone number is 330-928-3286.
Michael Pekar owner of PEKAR MUSIC CO. is a passionate perfectionist when it comes to stringed instruments. His music store carries a variety of guitars, basses, banjos, ukuleles, mandolins, violins, digital keyboards along with many accessories. Only four years after opening in 1998, Pekar Music Co. was named Best Guitar Shop in Northeast Ohio by Music & Sound Retailer Magazine. Interestingly, Pekar started out to service guitars, not sell them.
He studied with Jack Schwarz of Fender Co. and Akron born Virgil Lay, known worldwide for transforming guitars into performance-quality instruments. "A good repair inspires musicians to play better", Pekar said. Pekar has been playing since 9 years of age. He shoveled sidewalks for 50 cents to buy his first guitar. His first teacher, Dave Jones, is now one of four experienced musicians who teaches for Pekar.
Mike Pekar began performing at age 14. In the 1960's and 70's his was one of the first bands to appear on MTV. Today, he helps others experience the exhilaration of performance, giving lessons and arranging endorsements for talented youth. It's his way of doing something good with his gift. He says he sells, teaches and services guitars. His customers and students would add "inspires" to that list.
We would like to extend an invitation to the local talent of N E. Ohio to stop by our store in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. We would like to meet you and possibly offer you an opportunity to showcase your talent on our Youtube channel. We would like to help promote musicians and song writers that are local to our area. Thank you for visiting our website, come back often. Look for us on Facebook and YouTube.