Elderly Instruments keeping everyone safe trying out new instruments

Since we’ve all been under various COVID-19 restrictions since March, it’s likely that you haven’t been visiting your favorite guitar shop or music store much this year. With most all shops offering online ordering and delivery, we can all get our strings and accessories by mail, even if we aren’t getting a chance to play as much as we might wish.

But what about people who want, or need, to buy a new guitar, banjo, or mandolin? Even with return approval, most people prefer to try out an instrument in person before making a purchase decision, and now that most states are allowing at least partial occupancy of public spaces, how are dealers making sure that they can welcome customers safely, and allow different folks to test drive their offerings?

We talked to one leading retailer, Elderly Instruments in Lansing, MI, to get their feedback. One suspects that all stores with an inventory of acoustic instruments are following similar procedures, so there’s no need to be fearful of stopping in for a visit.

Elderly is among the largest retailers for new and used instruments in the US, shipping gear of all sorts all over the world. Especially with their high end lines and vintage guitars, people often travel great distances to sample their wares, or to drop off/pick up pieces for repair.

So they have developed a system which they ask customers to respect when visiting the shop. Some are common sense, of the sort that are requested in most public accommodations, like wearing a mask and keeping distance from others. In addition, the staff provides hand sanitizer for all comers, and restricts the number of customers in the showroom to no more than twelve at one time. 

They also sanitize and/or quarantine instruments for a time after they are played, and request that visitors restrict themselves to trying out instruments they are actually interested in purchasing. Elderly also asks customers to use credit or debit cards, or virtual payments like Apple or Google Pay, to avoid passing cash between buyers and staff.

Stan Werbin, owner and founder of the company, says that so far, their system has met with general approval. “We have found that nobody has had a problem with these rules, and we have never had a line waiting to come in, as far as I know.”

He said that bringing instruments in or picking them up can be accomplished through their curbside system, similar to that to which we have become accustomed when picking up online orders at restaurants.

“It is a little problematic when people drive from afar with instruments to drop off, but in such cases we can disinfect instruments with our high-power UV light device so the instruments are safe for us to handle in 15 or 20 minutes. We use the same device after customers have handled instruments in-store, so we can get the instruments back to the showroom fairly quickly. It’s not a perfect situation, but it works pretty well, all-in-all.”

So don’t be afraid to venture out to your favorite music store. Call ahead to make sure they are allowing people in to try instruments, and follow their guidance to ensure that everyone is safe, and that they can remain open in accordance with local restrictions.

You can find out more about Elderly Instruments and their large inventory online.

Your music store misses you as much as you miss them!

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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.