When Andrew Bell first opened Twin Town Guitars, his goal was to do everything he could to support local musicians. At the time, Bell says there weren’t a lot of music stores that were accessible for many artists, but Bell wanted to change things and do what he could to make creating music simple and affordable for all musicians.
To make that happen, Bell started one of the first trading programs in town and coupled it with a free layaway program to get artists closer to owing a new piece of gear, something Bell believes has been helpful for musicians who aren’t able to work full-time.
“We were pretty sure it wasn’t going to make us millionaires, so we went into that understanding that we are doing this not just to help ourselves, but our friends and people we gig with all the time,” he said.
Through the years, the shop — located at Lyndale and 34th in South Minneapolis — has expanded and has gone from focusing mostly on guitars to selling all kinds of instruments. Their staff has grown to include a repair team and 30 teachers who each teach about 30 to 40 students a week.
Although business has gone well for the guitar shop, things haven’t always been easy. Just as the shop was opening in the late ’90s, customers began turning to the internet to buy and sell instruments. Even though Bell has had to adjust to compete with online sales, there are somethings that he says will never change.
“The reality is that sometimes you just have to have to hear it. You just have to play it and spend a little bit of time with it,” he said. “Kids still ride their bikes here. Summer is still summertime and they are looking for things to do and they’ve got ideas and sounds that they want to try and make. [There are] repairs or something you can’t easily do online…some of those things aren’t going to change. You can take lessons on Skype, but that’s a hard thing to do. You never know what the future is going to hold, but those are some of the things that have changed and stayed the same.”
This Saturday, Twin Town Guitars will celebrate its 20th anniversary during the day with a store-wide sale, giveaways, and a performance by jeremy messersmith. Later on they’ll throw a concert at the Triple Rock Social Club featuring Dosh, BNLX, and Porno Wolves.
While Bell says he’s excited to see the artists perform, for him it’s all about saying thank you to the people who have supported Twin Town Guitars all these years.
“I know honestly we couldn’t be here for any amount of time unless the music community was like ‘I’ll buy stuff from you. Not because we live down the street, not because I get a good deal from you, but you guys have a good crew, I get good work done and I can count on you,'” Bell said. “It’s hard for a business to kind of reach out in any other way, except for a specific day like this, and say thank you very much. That’s the most exciting thing for me.”
Simone Cazares is a student at Saint Paul College. Originally from Miami, Fla., she survives Minnesota’s cruel winters by immersing herself in the Twin Cities music scene.