“People saw the sign and were stopping in even before I opened,” said Ray Anton, owner of Guitars N Gear at 3964 Curtiss Pkwy., next door to Village Hardware.
There seem to be a lot of pickers in the area and Miami Springs councilman Mike Windrem, also an accomplished guitarist, was one of the first to welcome Anton before his Aug. 12 opening. Anton has also been given a thumbs-up by members of local bands such as Barefoot Jax and Twisted Willie.
“Now people don’t have to have to drive a long way to a major guitar store to get supplies and learn to play,” Anton said. “I already have students signed up.”
Windrem, along with Virginia Gardens Mayor Spencer Deno IV and Miami Springs Mayor Zavier Garcia will be in attendance this Saturday, Sept. 7 when Anton holds his official "ribbon-cutting" grand opening at 1 p.m.
Anton, 45, grew up in Miami Springs and attended Blessed Trinity Catholic School from first through eighth grade before attending Columbus High. He was even an altar boy at the church, which is right around the corner from his new business. He and his family moved away years ago but his father still owns a building in Miami Springs.
“I really enjoyed growing up in the Springs,” said Anton. “I could ride my bike anywhere, play sports and go fishing. My dad worked for Pan Am at the time and we could fly anywhere.”
Anton attended Miami-Dade College and bounced around in finance and psychology before eventually getting a degree in music. He played in bands on weekends and worked at retail music stores in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties on weekdays.
“I started playing guitar when I was 16,” said Anton. “I got serious about it when I went to college and became more involved in the music scene.”
Anton played in several bands, most notable was Sin City in the early ’90s. After the band dissolved, Anton continued playing with friends and working in music stores. In 2001 a former band mate, who was in the mortgage business, encouraged Anton to give it a try.
“I was always good with numbers,” Anton said, “so I became a mortgage broker and real estate agent. But I always played and stayed in music.”
Several months ago Anton was helping out a friend who had a small guitar store in Broward County and the former Springs resident thought that would be a perfect business for this area. With encouragement from his wife, Anton decided to give it a try.
“I used to work for Village Hardware when I was young,” said Anton. “Being next door is perfect.”
The store sells new and used guitars and takes instruments in on consignment. He also sells guitar accessories such as strings, straps, picks, cords and amps. Anton can also repair old guitars and make them playable again. He has instructors signed up and two private rooms for lessons.
“I want my teachers to spend time tuning up and teaching the basics out of the book,” said Anton. “Then I want the students to be able to learn what they want. I want them to have fun while learning.”
Although the business is primarily for stringed instruments, Anton hopes to add band instruments and accessories such as reeds and mouthpieces.
“I can order almost anything and get it quickly so people don’t have to go to the big-name stores,” said Anton.
Anton is a hardcore rock ‘n’ roll guitarist. His favorite bands are hair metal groups from the mid-’80s, such as Van Halen and Ozzy Osbourne.
“The quality of musicianship from that era is second to none,” said Anton.
One of his favorite rock guitarists is Sweden-born Yngwie J. Malmsteen, who now lives in Miami Shores but is little known outside of professional rock guitarists.
“In the early ’80s he took a classical violin and turned it into a rock guitar,” said Anton. “A lot of his guitar music is rock versions of classical music.”
The store is currently open from noon-7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Saturday hours will be adjusted depending on the number of students.
“By the end of this year or the beginning of next, I will be moving back here,” Anton said. “I want to be within bike-riding distance of my business.”