As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 14 – New York-inspired (Dec. 2020)
Paige Davidson has set out to make her vintage guitar shop in Farmingdale, New York, an anti-big box guitar store. As co-founder of Well-Strung Guitars, Davidson wants her store to be a warm and inviting place for everyone to feel comfortable learning about their instruments and possibly become a guitar collector themselves.
We first met Davidson in Chattanooga at the now-closed Songbirds Museum during an exhibit on iconic female musicians and their guitars called Six String Queens, where she cut her teeth on learning about vintage instruments. As a guitarist herself, this proved an invaluable experience. In 2019, she opened the brick-and-mortar shop of Well-Strung Guitars featuring premier vintage instruments and memorabilia. As a small business, Davidson spends her time in various roles within the company.
We first met at the Songbirds Museum in Chattanooga during the Six String Queens exhibit, which was very impressive. Tell us a little about Well Strung Guitars: how it started, how long in business, mission, etc.?
Can you believe it was nearly three years ago that we first met? Crazy to think how much has changed since then! Songbirds was my first opportunity to work closely with vintage guitars and basses; taking on their social media and marketing really provided me with the opportunity to learn so much more than I thought possible. Flash forward, Well Strung Guitars is the brainchild of myself and my business partner and father, David Davidson.
In 2018, there was a lot of speculation as to where the vintage guitar market and the guitar market as a whole were going. Around that same time, Fender had released a statistic that fifty percent of guitars being purchased by beginner and aspirational players were women. I saw this as the time to strike and open a brand new, woman-owned brick-and-mortar vintage guitar shop. The doors to our Farmingdale, New York, store opened in July of 2019. I handle anything from sales to accounting to dusting the showroom—a small business like this has fairly blurred lines when it comes to roles.
Our mission is to be the anti-big box store; to provide a warm and welcoming environment to not only avid players and collectors but to men and women everywhere who wish to educate themselves on the history of these iconic instruments and possibly even dive into collecting.
Do you have a musical background?
I grew up singing in a choir and a capella groups as well as playing the guitar. It was in my blood to be musically inclined. For as long as I can remember, vintage guitars were around me. My family was the second generation of owners at We Buy Guitars—for me, it was a natural next step.
I once had an artist tell me all of her instruments have a soul. Do you have the same feeling about the guitars that have been through the doors at Well Strung?
There is no doubt in my mind that these instruments have a soul. Instruments are fundamental extensions of the player; more than a tool, they become a part of the artist. With the guitars we sell at Well Strung Guitars, I find that to be even more true. Many of these guitars have lived long and incredible lives before walking through our doors, some having been played all over the world. They have stories to tell. You can actually hear it in the sounds the guitar pumps out and see it in the natural age the guitar displays. They have personalities all their own, and it’s truly remarkable.
What has been one of the most unique instruments you’ve seen at Well Strung?
That’s a tough question! When so many of the guitars we get in the store are unique in their own right, it’s hard to objectively say which is the most unique. What I can say, though, is that we’ve had some of the rarest instruments in the world pass through our hands, which is extremely special. Uniqueness for me is an equation of rarity plus cleanliness and originality. To me, when a guitar checks all three boxes, that is truly a sign of something special.
Have you faced any challenges being a female working in the guitar industry, and if so, how did you overcome the challenge?
Sadly, the work that I do is male-dominated. Like so many other women in various industries, I knew that it could be a struggle from day one. So while some people ask to speak with someone else or might prefer to work with my partner David on a deal, it’s par for the course. Unfortunately. I don’t know that I would say I’ve overcome anything just yet. It’s a constant battle to be a woman, never mind a woman who owns a business. What I can say is that we are working very hard to open the minds of the people we work with each and every day, and it’s working! Since opening, we have hired two additional women and don’t intend to stop there. Music is for everyone, so working in this field should be too.
During this difficult time resulting from the pandemic, how has Well Strung Guitars maintained its customer base?
We have been extremely fortunate that amidst all of the craziness 2020 has thrown at us, our customer base has shown up time and time again. Our online business was thriving during the earliest days of the pandemic and continues to do so now. Though our physical store was closed for ten weeks, we were lucky enough to speed up rather than slow down.
What advice do you have for women wanting to pursue a career in the music industry?
No matter what path in the music industry you choose to pursue, find your voice, and amplify it. The more strong and modern-thinking women we have in this world, the better off it will be.
Photos provided by company