Places that are gone. The first in a series.

I have lived my entire life in Santa Clara County. I spent about half a year bouncing around Santa Cruz County, but never had a permanent address, so I don’t really count that as a place I “lived”.

If you mention Santa Clara County to anyone NOT from around here, the general response is “where is that?”. But despite growing up in the shadow of world famous San Francisco, Santa Clara County is equally famous, it’s just better known by its nickname “Silicon Valley”.

We moved into what is still my parents’ house shortly before my 5th birthday, where I stayed until 19.

As you might imagine, the place was a LOT different back then.

I got my first taste of “growth” in 1st grade, when it was announced that my school was closing. It was the first school built in the district, and they tore it down to build condominiums. The beginning of the end…

Since 1972/73, we’ve lost so many orchards, vineyards, schools, local-legend restaurants, night clubs, shops, etc. Really, you can’t even recognize the place anymore.

So in this series, I plan to document some of the “places that are gone” from my youth.

It’ll probably only be interesting to me and any other “townies” that happen to still be around. (Which are few and far between – every single friend I had up until my 20’s has moved out of the area or out of the state completely.) Nonetheless, I thought it might be good for me to relive some fond memories of days gone by. That is the hope anyway.

Today, I’ll kick things off with one of my all time favorite haunts, Guitar Showcase in San Jose.

The first time I stepped into Guitar Showcase, Im guessing 1980, but I may be off by a year either way, I was immediately enamored of the place. It was a pretty funky, older building, and the drum “department” was incredibly small, stuffed into a corner on the ground floor.

Gone but not forgotten!

My buddy Patrick and I used to haul ourselves down there on our 10-speed bikes, about a 5 mile jaunt. And we’d stay for hours, looking at EVERYTHING.

One of the things I always appreciated about GS, was the friendliness of the staff. I’m positive two 12-year-old boys hanging out in your store must have been annoying as can be, yet we were never hustled out of there, never treated poorly. I wish I could say the same about other music shops…

I saw my very first electronic drum in that store – the Syndrum. I got to check out all kinds of “futuristic” synthesizers upstairs in the keyboard dept… I learned how PA systems are set up. I saw my first paisley Telecaster and held my first left handed guitar, which I didn’t even know existed at the time! (It would be 40 years later that I bought my first lefty, after considerable time trying to overcome the difficulties of playing a “standard”, right handed guitar.)

Many years later they’d open an annex across the parking lot, with studios for lessons and a rental shop and a used-gear showroom. At that point, the place had an intractable magnetic pull on me, and I couldn’t seem to drive down the road without pulling in.

We don’t live too far from the shop, and I still pop in on occasion, so you can imagine my dismay, ney HORROR as I drove by last month and saw chain link fence surrounding the entire main building.

I literally felt sick to my stomach when I saw it, and involuntarily shouted “Oh NO, Look!!” to my wife… She tried to be reassuring, saying maybe they’re just going to remodel, bring things up to date… This calmed me down a little, as it COULD be the case. The building was old, and I sincerely doubt it met with current building and ADA and fire/life safety codes. There was a really narrow, creaky stair case to get upstairs, so that alone could get you shut down, should one prick lawyer get a wild hair up his azz and decide to sue.

So, I waited to see what might transpire. I decidedly chose NOT to look into it, as I didn’t want any bad news. Sadly, just a few weeks later I drove by and that funky, creaky, weird smelling but delightful old building was nothing more than a pile of rubble.

I nearly cried, I kid you not. Even writing about it now has me choked up a bit. I haven’t had the heart to tell Patrick, whom is still one of my best friends 40+ years later. He moved away for college and never came back to SJ to live, so he doesn’t have the deep connection to the place I do but you can bet he’s still got some fond recollections of the place.

After witnessing the tragedy (part of me wanted to stop and take a picture, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It would be like photographing the corpse of a loved one.) I decided to look into the story, which was a good news/bad news situation.

The “good news” is the shop says they will remain open in the old annex building. The bad news is the property was sold to an “affordable housing” contractor, and leased back to Guitar Showcase.

It’s great that they’ll keep the doors open, for a while anyway, but I see the writing on the wall. I foresee one of two things transpiring in the near future. One, even though they say they’ll remain open “during construction”, it’s going to wreck their customer base. It’s a small plot of land, barely half an acre, so when the heavy equipment rolls in and the tradesmens’ trucks take up every available parking space for half a mile, the customers will stop dropping in, revenues will drop and BOOM!, outta business. Or two, they manage to keep the doors open until the lease expires, and the owners will NOT renew, so they can tear down the annex and cram more stuff onto the lot. The firm building the new housing isn’t a local outfit, so I can all but guarantee they do not care one iota about the history of this place. Goddamn vultures.

Vintage ad, probably from BAM magazine…

Either way, I’m afraid their days are numbered.

To be perfectly candid, I feel at least somewhat responsible for the shop doing poorly. As a “starving musician” in my earlier years, you had to find the very best deals you could and GS, being a small, independent shop couldn’t put out the heavy discounts some of their competitors could, due to sheer volume.

Then came along eBay and Craigslist, and then, so the online used gear market just exploded! Great for poor musicians, terrible for retail establishments. Nonetheless, I did buy from them, and often, but usually the smaller stuff like drum sticks and heads, cables and mic stands, stuff like that.

There is certainly no way the remaining staff at GS knows how much they’ve meant to me these last 4 decades or so, but I will miss them when that final note carries into the wind and the doors close forever.

If, by some tiny chance, should someone from the shop actually see this, I want to say thank you. This shop was at least partially responsible for a dorky, awkward kid finding his true passion in life and getting to have adventures that he never would have dreamed of without music.

From the bottom of my heart, a GIANT THANK YOU to the Guitar Showcase staff, past and present!

Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “Places that are gone. The first in a series.”

  1. What I wouldn’t give for the old used bookstores of my youth to still be here. But, there just is no way to survive the real estate industry and its effects on driving out mom & pops. But I will say, as well, even trying to keep the small guys alive is a losing battle. Here in small town Nevada, I have been having issues giving my business to small business. Nothing in stock, unable to order stock ( which I did myself, after returning home- what, their computer doesn’t have Amazon? Sell to me at 10% over, just to keep me happy ), really a poor attitude all around ( this is near universal. I get it, stress and staying open and enough to feed your family, but don’t take it out on me ). I finally gave up and just stay home and order online.


    1. I hear ya. There isn’t much in the way of small business here anymore, with the exception of liquor stores, donut shops and a few small owner-operator food shacks. We’re lucky to have one used book store still, for which I’m thankful but even they are having to jack prices way up to keep the doors open. I just saw a new “vintage clothing boutique” opening up on one of the main (read:expensive!) roads the next town over from me. I’ll be surprised if they make it a year. Even the Salvation Army store up the street had to close down in ’21! Real estate is insane here, it’s no wonder only the monstrocorporations are left standing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Mason Dixon Survivalist Association

Be a Survivalist who is a “Jack of all Trades”, master of some (preferably the life saving and life protecting arts).

Dio's Workshop

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it – no matter if I have said it! – except it agree with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Siddhartha Gautama, a.k.a. the Buddha

Official Website of Jennifer C Lindquist, Artist

The Boring Old Man

The ramblings of an old weirdo about whatever crosses my mind...

%d bloggers like this: