The great, great House of Guitars (also known as HoG) is an enormous internationally known music store located in Rochester, New York that features almost anything you can imagine related to music. The House of Guitars bills itself as the “Largest Guitar Store in the World”. It was founded by Bruce and Armand Schaubroeck in 1964 in their mother’s basement, and they continue to own and operate the store now. It relocated to its current location in the 1970’s in a building that was formerly known as the Grange Hall. The store has received national attention and has been featured in articles in publications such as People magazine, Details magazine and The Wall Street Journal. Also, one of the characters in the 1994 film PCU wore a House of Guitars T-shirt throughout the film.
Whenever professional touring musicians come to Rochester, the House of Guitars is a popular stop. Many national acts have come over the years to do in store promotional appearances where fans can meet the musicians for album signings and photographs. Countless musicians have visited over the decades including Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Cheap Trick, Metallica, Geddy Lee of Rush, Pantera, Motley Crue, Matthew Sweet and The Ramones, just to name a few. In fact, The Ramones actually appeared in a House of Guitars television commercial in the late 1970’s.
The House of Guitars is famous, or some would say infamous, for their bizarre, very low budget television commercials from the 1970’s and 1980’s that I believe can still be seen occasionally on local Rochester TV stations. Perhaps the most entertaining and well known of these commercials is their Easter commercial featuring store owner Armand Schaubroeck. In this commercial, Armand is wearing bunny ears on his head and is saying that he is the real Easter Bunny while repeatedly saying “Hop, Hop”. Armand goes on to tell the viewer that they don’t want candy or flowers for Easter, they want an expensive guitar from the House of Guitars for Easter of course! I highly recommend watching their commercials which can be seen on YouTube if you have never seen them. They are highly entertaining!
The House of Guitars building is laid out in two main sections, upstairs and downstairs. Upstairs is where they have a huge selection of instruments which are mainly electric and acoustic guitars. They also feature bass guitars, drums, keyboards, amplifiers and all kinds of other products related to these instruments. These instruments come in a very wide range of prices starting at a few hundred dollars and going all the way up to several thousand dollars. They also repair guitars, and they offer music lessons to all ages. The upstairs also features a small stage where the visiting musicians can put on performances for store visitors.
The downstairs is a gigantic collection of mostly music albums, but also contains t-shirts, books of sheet music, videos and posters. The music comes in every format imaginable from CD’s, cassettes, records and even 8-Track tapes. They even have very old 78 rpm records. If you have never been to the House of Guitars, be warned as the downstairs looks very disordered and like one giant mess. However, asking one of the store’s employees for help is an efficient way to quickly find what you are looking for. If you have the time though, it can be fun to hunt through the CD’s to see what you might discover. The selection is so big that you are guaranteed to find some very cool surprises such as finding a rare album that you may not have known even existed.
The House of Guitars is also one giant music museum and collection of countless items of music memorabilia. Throughout the store are pictures of very famous bands and musicians when they visited the store. The walls, ceilings and pillars in the store are covered with t-shirts and autographed posters, pictures and drum heads. One of the coolest features of the store is a giant white wall, called the Wall of Autographs, that has been autographed over the years by tons of bands and musicians that have made appearances at the House of Guitars. Notable musician autographs on the wall include Megadeth, Lita Ford, Marilyn Manson, Chubby Checker and Les Paul. I was also excited to see autographs of some lesser known bands that I am a fan of including Crimson Glory, Wildside and XYZ! They also have a collection of Beatles autographs and souvenirs for all you Beatles fans out there. They even have a saxophone autographed by former President Bill Clinton in 2007 when he was in Rochester for a speaking engagement. It is definitely worth spending some time leisurely walking through the store and checking out all the super cool memorabilia that is displayed everywhere. On a recent visit to the store, I had a blast spending an hour and a half just taking in all the sights.
The House of Guitars is a highly recommended place to visit when you are in the Rochester area for musicians of all levels and for people who are just music fans. Whether you are looking to buy music or instruments, this store should definitely be on your list of places to shop at. It is fantastic that this independent music store has thrived and been around for over 55 years now. During that time countless music stores have come and gone, but the great, great House of Guitars has remained an institution in Upstate New York. Congratulations to Bruce and Armand Schaubroeck for all their success, and here’s to many more successful years to come!