In tune with customers - that’s why Coda crew are drawing guitarists to make the trip to Stevenage’s Old Town
- Credit: Archant
You often have to travel to a big city to find specialist shops for your niche hobby or interest, but guitarists in North Herts must be delighted they don’t have to go further than Stevenage Old Town to find a store that specialises in – well, guitars.
Coda Music, which opened in 1987 and is based in an 18th century barn in High Street, is rammed full of electric guitars by top international brands like Fender and Gibson, amplifiers by Vox and Marshall, picks, straps, and everything else you might need if your are thinking of becoming the next Carlos Santana or Jimi Hendrix.
What’s more, the store opened a brand new acoustic centre in Church Lane last summer, which means acoustic aficionados can now browse and strum a range of top level instruments by sought-after manufacturers including Martin and Taylor.
Marc Hagland, who has worked at the store for 15 years, explains: “We used to keep electric and acoustic guitars in the same shop but it was never ideal because people playing acoustic guitars didn’t necessarily want the sound of electric instruments in the background.
“We wanted to expand and we wanted to stay in the Old Town, and we didn’t want to move to a soulless shop on an industrial estate.
“It’s working well because it keeps the acoustics in one place and the electrics in another, our customers have commented really positively about it.”
Marc says although the store stocks £100 electric guitars for beginners, its real strength is offering top-of-the-range instruments tailored for professional musicians and the discerning amateur – the shop is well used by such local luminaries as Marty and Kim Wilde.
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And Marc says although the store has a loyal following in Stevenage, it’s not just about local customers.
“We’ve always said local trade is important but because we are specialists people are willing to travel to us and we advertise a lot nationally
“If people are going to spend £2,000 or £3,000 on a guitar they will not mind travelling two or three hours to get it,” he says.
“Also people want to try out guitars. Even if they are a standard model, every one will feel slightly different so there’s always going to be a place for a guitar showroom.”
Marc says the shop’s secret is that it doesn’t try to offer other musical instruments. “We do guitars, and there’s not many shops that have the level of stock that we have,” he says.
Asked if guitarists really want to spend such hefty sums on their instruments in these difficult economic times, he replies: “We obviously get professionals coming in who can afford it, but also a lot of amateurs and bedroom guitarists. Guitarists are amazingly fickle creatures and are never happy. They are always looking to change what they’ve got or to part exchange it.”
Marc says its really important specialist shops stay in the old town to help keep the High Street vibrant. He said: “I’m not against places out of town, but The High Street should be the hub of the town. It’s a lovely street and the shops all stick together and support each other.
“We should keep sticking together and keep the High Street going, it would be good to see more businesses moving in, too.”
Find out more online at www.coda-music.com.