Interview with Frank Male and Kathy McCulloch of Midtown Guitar Company
TYG: So, how did you guys come to Yachats?
Frank: Well, we were in the Bay Area and we'd been looking for a place to retire. We were originally looking in Nye Beach. We discovered Yachats, and we decided to retire here and bring in a music store.
TYG: So what got you guys into guitars?
Frank: I've been playing music most of my life, so it kind of goes from there...
TYG: How did you end up getting a store and an inventory like this? There are beautiful pieces in here.
Frank: Well, the inventory you just buy. But yeah, I like to buy guitars, and I had a number of guitars at home, and an opportunity to start a store in Aptos, California. We were fairly successful from the day we opened, and we did that for five or six years. We then opened one in Santa Cruz, and had an opportunity to dispose of that one, so we sold our property that we had there and came up here.
TYG-Editorial Assistant: Do you still have the shop in Aptos?
Frank: No, that's closed as well.
Kathy: We had that one for four years, and then one in Santa Cruz for two. And then we took all the best stuff, that we liked the best, from the one in Santa Cruz that we had moved to, and we brought it up here. And we sold that one in Santa Cruz. Then we got a 16-foot truck, got everything in there, including the neon [signs], and we brought ourselves and the guitars up here, where we had bought a house two years prior and vacation-rentalled it.
TYG-EA: How did you find this little corner of the world? It's not a major feature on most maps...
Kathy: Our realtor! In Nye Beach we kept getting our houses bought out from under us, so he told us he liked Yachats, and every time he came down here, everybody was always happy down here. He grew up in Waldport. So we came down here, and we got lucky! We got a house.
Frank: Yachats is actually quite well known.
Kathy: Yeah! In Europe, in the subway, they have a moving sign—his son saw it!
Frank: In Heathrow Airport!
TYG: In England? That's amazing! Considering it got onto Frommer's top ten travel destinations, surpassing London and Paris!
TYG-EA: Well, Paris was on there, but London didn't make the cut.
Frank: They have their great histories and all that, but they've turned into big cities.
Kathy: I like it that you can walk everywhere.
Frank: I don't know how long it will last, but we have a community with no police department, no stop light, no bank, no gas station for eight miles, and I don't like any of those things. We have no traffic, but it's giving me a place. It's one of those few places in the world that's kind of on the way up, and it seems like everywhere else is on the way down. So we're lucky; we're able to do what we're doing, and we plan to just make this into a kind of destination with music—I don't know how many guitars we'll sell here. Most people are tourists and just want to look at them. Most of our business has gone online through a site called Reverb. So if I actually get serious about selling guitars, most of the guitars will go on a UPS truck out of here.
Kathy: Which we did down in Santa Cruz too. It's pretty exciting to come in in the morning and some $3,500 or $2,500 guitar has sold.
Frank: Most of the money is spent shipping it out.
Kathy: Yes! So once you ship it out you get the money. It has its ups and downs.
Frank: But the business model, to me, is lifeless. There's no music in it; the guitars come in a box, and they go out in a box.
Kathy: And [the customers] want them untouched.
Frank: Yeah, you don't get to hang out with them or whatever.
TYG-EA: This is a place where things are personal.
Frank: Yes, you can pick one up, and we enjoy the people. We've sold a few instruments.
Kathy: We sold a PRS.
Frank: Nobody knows who PRS is.
Kathy: So, Paul Reed Smith has just started making acoustic guitars. A local person, who was really waiting for us to open, we had it because our rep had just been in. So we showed him some other stuff, and then that guitar, and he bought it. Same day. And that same day we sold three ukuleles, too.
TYG: What drew you to this location, this store I mean?
Kathy: Well, this property became open.
TYG-EA: I hear it's been a lot of work.
Frank: It has—we've been here for a year.
TYG: I remember this place when it was still a wine shop, but it certainly didn't look like this.
Frank: There was a lot of stuff that was pretty rotten that we fixed up.
Kathy: We had to replace the roof.
Frank: It's been a good project.
TYG-EA: You guys did the work yourselves?
Frank: Well, we had some people help us along the way. It's had its moments. It's pretty good now that most of the work is done.
Kathy: He was going back and forth by train a lot, and I was running the store in Santa Cruz. At one point, when there was snow this past winter, he got stuck on the train—I don't know if you heard that story.
TYG: You were on that train! Oh!
Kathy: It got turned around. It was upsetting—they didn't have food.
Frank: It was bad. But anyway, we got the building, we fixed it up, and now we're open.
TYG-EA: What's to become of the two little buildings?
Kathy: They're rented.
Frank: So, we'll have an amphitheater out here, and there will be music, and I think it's going to be a cool place! Eventually we're going to put a caboose out in back.
TYG: A railroad caboose?
TYG: That'll be cool!
Frank: Alright guys, thank you so much!
TYG: Thanks for your time!