Banjo Cellar opens in Kentucky

The Banjo CellarThese days, we are more accustomed to seeing news about retail music stores closing than opening, with pressure from online mega-stores making life difficult for smaller, privately-owned ventures.

But in Williamstown, Kentucky a pair of bluegrass veterans have partnered to open a bluegrass-centric shop called The Banjo Cellar. Elmer Burchett and Megan McKamey have acquired two storefronts side-by-side in the historic business district which they believe is a perfect spot for a bluegrass music store with an entertainment venue next door.

What makes them think they can succeed in an era when specialty retail is such a difficult market? Well, for one, northern Kentucky is definitely bluegrass country. People there know and love the music, as it’s part of the regional culture, and parents are always looking for places where their children can study the music.

J.D. Crowe stops by The Banjo Cellar: Curt Chapman, Megan McKamey, and J.D. CroweBut just as importantly, Elmer and Megan are looking forward to the large tourist trade expected when The Ark Encounter opens in the summer of 2016. This will be an historical attraction, including a full-sized replica of Noah’s Ark along with a petting zoo and themed restaurants. Additional Bible-based attractions are expected to be added over the next few years on the same site. The park is located roughly a mile from the historic business district in Williamstown.

The Banjo Cellar is open now, with instruments and accessories for bluegrass pickers, along with lessons for banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, ukulele, bass, piano, and drums. Songwriting lessons are also offered at the store, along with instrument repairs and a consignment program for Kentucky luthiers.

Elmer’s General Store will be next door, but is still undergoing restoration. The building had once housed an old time drug store, complete with soda fountain, which will be reopened sometime in 2016 as a 1920s-themed soda shop and live music venue, offering bluegrass entertainment.

The upper floors in both buildings will be converted into bed & breakfast style suites for tourists visiting The Ark. Who says banjo players don’t have business smarts?

boograss_jamTo serve as a grand opening, Megan and Elmer are hosting a BooGrass Jam on October 23, to introduce themselves to the local music scene, and help raise money to complete the restoration of the General Store. A $5 entry fee will be charged, with food and beverages provided, and all pickers and music lovers within an easy drive are invited to bring their instruments and jam along. Live music will be provided on stage with a picking room set aside for jammers.

Once construction is completed, all The Banjo Cellar’s inventory will be available for sale online as well as in the store.

You can find them in the meantime at 114 N. Main Street in Williamstown, KY. They can also be reached by phone (423-218-6690) or email.

Congratulations to Elmer and Megan, and best of luck to them in this new venture!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.