The Old Boise Guitar Company sign on Main Street—with a leafy sapling sprouting out from the fret board of a half-acoustic, half-electric guitar—is as iconic as the store itself.
"It speaks so loudly of old downtown Boise," says hairdresser Stephanie Coyle. "I couldn't imagine not seeing that sign there."
For the past 25 years, owner Johnny Pisano and his wife Lisa have listened to the tuneless, quiver-fingered pluck of rookies and the effortless soulful strum of pros after they've slipped the strap of a new Fender or Taylor over their shoulder. But that might not last much longer. Like many downtown staples, Old Boise Guitar has suffered repeated one-two blows from the ailing economy and the increasing prevalence of chain big-box behemoths.
"As a guitar player, it's something that you're intimately involved with," says teacher and musician Ryan Peck. "And I just don't think it's something that you can get at a big-box store."
Sitting over coffee recently, Peck and Coyle noticed an article in the Idaho Statesman detailing the current financial woes of Old Boise Guitar. As a longtime patron of the store, Peck knew something had to be done. He and Coyle started making calls and quickly garnered support for a benefit concert at Visual Arts Collective.
"I was reluctant at first because why don't we do a fundraiser for every business? Because everybody's hurting," explains Peck. "But maybe we can make people think differently about at least guitars and think, 'Hey, we should be buying guitars locally, and we should be supporting local businesses.'"
The benefit's lineup includes Doug Martsch, Bill Coffey, Ned Evett, Jeremiah James, Steve Fulton, Pinto Bennett, Thomas Paul and Belle of Le Bois. Local businesses like the Record Exchange, George's Cycles, Big City Coffee, Audiolab and Idaho Shakespeare Festival donated items for the benefit's raffle and silent auction. A couple other high ticket items—like a Jim Morrison signed Doors album and an Anniversary Stratocaster—were bequeathed by an anonymous donor. Owner Johnny Pisano, who jokes that he's rarely speechless, found it difficult to describe his gratitude: "I knew people liked the store ... but when you see it in this situation, or on this scale, boy, it's way more than I ever would've expected," he said.
The benefit, which goes down Friday, April 10, at 6 p.m., will hopefully be a catalyst for people to recognize the ramifications of how and where they spend their money. A wake-up call, of sorts.
"I'm hoping that it goes way beyond just benefitting us, and everybody starts thinking about each other and their community and how they shop and just how they interact," says Pisano.
$10, 6 p.m., Fri., April 10, VAC, 3638 Osage St. To buy tickets, visit visual-arts-collective.ticketleap.com or call 208-424-8297.