‘Grand Slam Guitars’ fills Cooperstown Main Street storefront

Owners Wayne and Jamie Roche have filled their new store in Cooperstown with plenty of guitars, gear, and music.

‘Grand Slam Guitars’ fills Cooperstown Main Street storefront

By Ted Potrikus

Along with the book shop still there today, 139 Main Street in Cooperstown has seen a wide variety of occupants over its history. In its time, the impressive storefront has housed a car dealership, an auto garage, gift shops, a stereo and record store and now, after more than a year with its lights out, is home once again to retail with the opening of Grand Slam Guitars.

Guitarist Wayne Roche and his wife, Jamie, opened the store in January with a limited schedule — open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons — as they stock the shelves and prepare for the village’s busy spring and summer ahead.

“Yes, we’re creeping open a little bit,” Wayne joked as he walked around the store. It’s filled with guitar gear – parts and accessories, pickups and pick guards, guitar picks that range from the traditional to the exotic, vintage magazines, store-branded shirts, and, of course, an impressive array of new, used, and vintage guitars.

“This place is a toy store for gearheads,” he said. “We hope every musician around who loves the whole experience comes in. We’ve got all the parts to do your own building, fixing up your instruments. I love to meet creative people who get into it.”

Jamie Roche agreed as she pointed out a few of the guitars on offer. “Some of these are real pieces of art,” noting a rare 12-string bass guitar as her husband highlighted one instrument at the top of an array of guitars mounted on the store’s wall.

“That’s an original Eddie Van Halen Charvel from 1982,” he said. “It’s the model that came out before they put the ‘EVH’ branding on it. It’s a beauty.”

Indeed it is, a striking instrument known as the ‘bumble bee’ for the bright yellow lines crisscrossing the guitar’s black body.

It’s not just for the veteran vintage guitar aficionado, though. Wayne, a lifelong guitar player, said the store has plenty of stock for the beginner to the professional.

Grand Slam Guitars is the Roches’ brick-and-mortar extension to their website, www.guitarheads.net, doing business on line for the last 22 years. In a retail economy where online sales dominate, it may seem counterintuitive to expand a web presence to include brick-and-mortar. Not so for the Roches.

“When this storefront opened up, we decided to go for it,” Wayne said. “Jamie and I have been coming to Cooperstown since 1998 for the Hall of Fame inductions and we love it here. We thought, ‘Why not open a store in a small village during a pandemic?’”

That the couple’s introduction to Cooperstown came via the Hall induction ceremonies and they use a decidedly Fenway font for their Main Street signage betrays a love for baseball and, to be sure, a love for the Boston Red Sox. Wayne recalled his own transformation to a devout Red Sox fan, despite growing up in New Jersey with a diehard Yankees fan for a father.

“I was watching a Yankees/Red Sox game with my dad,” he said. “I guess he wanted me to get excited about baseball and the Yankees. I remember it, though, Jim Rice came up and was just awesome. I took one look at him and thought, ‘This is my guy and this is my team.’ Much to my father’s disappointment.”

“We’re equal opportunity sports fans,” Wayne joked, pointing out the “Helmet Guitar” for sale — yes, a guitar body shaped like a football helmet, customizable to the player’s favorite team. “We like all sports, all guitars, and we welcome fans of any team!”

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