Green Business Feature: The Guitar Seller – Selling Happiness Since 1978

By LeRae Haynes –

Regardless of your skill level or area of musical interest, The Guitar Seller in Williams Lake is a music lover’s music store where you are genuinely welcome to come hang out, be inspired, or fall in love with the perfect musical instrument.

Photo by LeRae Haynes

The personable, professional, and helpful staff is made up of Owner Brian Sawyer, Manager Rick Blackwood, and Musical Instructors Herb Pannekoek and Tyler Pollock, who teach individual guitar, bass, and ukulele lessons in two private teaching studios. Pannekoek also does stringed instrument repairs for the store.

Well qualified and experienced, Pannekoek’s been teaching for over 30 years and is greatly respected by his students and by the music community. He began playing music when he was nine years old and started teaching music—a natural step for him—when he was 15.

My parents had an art/music studio in Abbotsford and were both music teachers, he explained. “Dad taught a little brass and reed, but his main focus was his art work as a wood sculptor, and my mom was a conservatory teacher on piano, organ, and accordion. She was a teacher in their studio as well as at Toew’s Music.

Pannekoek played in a couple of different bands for about 15 years, in various places throughout BC and Alberta. Highlights for him include a dance at UBC in Vancouver and a three-night performance at Steam Clock Square in Gas Town.

He said teaching has always been his love and after over 30 years that’s still true.

There is nothing like being there when all of a sudden the love of playing clicks with a student and they become infected with a lifetime desire for playing and writing and perhaps performing music, he says. It has never felt like work!

Some of his students have gone on to attend the University of Victoria, and he is currently preparing another student, Ethan Schultz, to enroll.

A few of my students have become professional performers touring across Canada, US, and other places,” he says. “One of them, Lyndon Froese, has performed with his group as far away as Hawaii and Mexico.

At The Guitar Seller, instruments for sale include mandolins, electric and acoustic drums and guitars, electric pianos and keyboards, ukuleles, bass guitars, fiddles, hand-held percussion, harmonicas, and more.

You can also find stands, amps, straps, pics, strings, and—new to the store—a complete selection of woodwind reeds.

The store is starting a guitar rental program and even exploring one for ukuleles. There’s so much potential for music in this town and we want to support that in any way we can,
Sawyer says.

There is a great price range at The Guitar Seller from affordable to higher end. Prices for electric guitars go from under $200 to the sky’s the limit, and include makes such as Epiphone, Yamaha, Takamine, and Gibson.

The store also rents and sells sound systems for all occasions, stages, and venues—from an event at the Stampede grounds to a family wedding reception in your back yard. We’ll rent you what will work and even provide a sound man, if you need one, Sawyer says.

We do sound for a lot of community events, such as the Indoor Rodeo, Performances in the Park, and events in the Gibraltar Room, he adds. We know the venues and the facilities and can always help you out.

The Guitar Seller will match prices with larger stores like Long and McQuade. We won’t sell junk, Sawyer says. “Quality and affordability are both important, and customer service is king.

The Guitar Seller employees all love music and play music, and their passion shows in their commitment to their customers.

“Our customers leave here happy and that’s important to us, Sawyer says. “Music makes people happy, and it makes us happy, too. This is a thriving happy retail, and you look forward to coming to work every day. Music is therapy; that’s what we sell here.

This local business opened its doors as Audio Video Unlimited in May 1978. “We brought in our first musical instrument in 1980 and eventually opened a smaller version of The Guitar Seller in the lower level,” Sawyer says.

Two years ago, we closed Audio Video and became a full-time music store. It’s made a big difference going full-time. We more than doubled our selection and our inventory; we went from 15 guitars to 40, from one piano to five. I’ve been in a lot of small music stores, but none with this selection.”

Although The Guitar Seller doesn’t stock everything, it can bring in most major brands and is committed to looking after nearly every musical inclination and taste.

We’re thrilled when people buy something and have a huge smile on their face, and we’ll go to any lengths to put it there, Sawyer says.

The Guitar Seller is located at 234 Borland Street, and can be reached at (250) 392-4027 and on Facebook.

LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.

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