Aaron Keener and Vince Nettuno.

Crossroads Guitar Shop
6672 Arlington Blvd.
Falls Church VA 22042
Tues-Fri: 10am-6pm
Sat: 10am-4pm
Vince Nettuno, Owner

Vince Nettuno had a longstanding love and appreciation of guitars, having been a player since he was 17 years old. However, the idea of owning his own music store didn’t come to him until 2006, when he read an article about a new type of technology that had been installed at the Gibson plant in Nashville TN. The PLEK Machine, a German invention, uses computer numerical control to take the guesswork out of the instrument setup process.

Nettuno made inquiries to the Berlin-based company that builds and sells the machines, and he found that it was hesitant to sell its technology to just anyone. “They were very brand protective,” he noted. “We finalized the contract in September 2006. I negotiated with the company to get the PLEK Pro machine. We committed to PLEK and agreed to go all in, with all the bells and whistles they had to offer.”

Once the contract was set, Crossroads Guitar Shop opened. When the machine was delivered in July 2007, Nettuno said, “I then partnered with Aaron Keener, a superb player and guitar tech. Together, we have focused on becoming the destination for the finest setups and repairs in the Mid-Atlantic United States.” Nettuno continued, “Crossroads Guitar Shop was 13th in the world to get the PLEK Machine offered for a retail location. It was one of three PLEK Pros in the United States, where a customer can walk in and say, ‘PLEK my guitar, please.’”

The PLEK Machine sits in Crossroads Guitar Shop’s showroom, where customers can watch the setup process. “It can be like a show,” Nettuno remarked, describing the machine as roughly the size of two large freezers side by side. “It has Plexiglas surround panels, so you can watch the process. People are very interested, and we are happy to take the time to explain it to our customers.”

Crossroads Guitar Shop puts most all of the guitars in the shop through the PLEK Machine, so that playability and setup can be assured. The store routinely has customers come in with guitars of all types, seeking to get them PLEK’d. “Someone will buy a $4,000 guitar at Guitar Center and drive it right over to our shop to have it PLEK’d,” Nettuno said. “You can buy your instrument on Craigslist and bring it here.” And it’s no wonder that the store is a destination; Nettuno counts Dweezil Zappa, Eric Gales, Unknown Hinson and the Beach Boys among his clientele. “There is no substitute for what we do in terms of the setup accuracy,” he emphasized, “because the machine can measure a guitar’s setup more accurately than a human can.”

“It’s not that you just push a button,” Nettuno continued. “There are decisions involved, and you have to know what you’re doing. The guesswork is removed, though.”

Nettuno estimates that his store has PLEK’d more than 2,000 guitars over the years; in fact, the PLEK Machine paid for itself in the first three years. But, even though the machine is the centerpiece of his operation, Nettuno sees Crossroads Guitar Shop as more than just a PLEK Pro destination.

“I don’t think of us as a repair shop, even though that’s the bulk of our revenue,” Nettuno explained. “I think of us as a destination for gear that not everyone else carries. The PLEK is a happy surprise.” Indeed, he prides himself on carrying lesser-known brands of guitars and amps, including Reverend, Italia, Prestige, Michael Kelly, Mérida, Stonebridge, Recording King, Devilcat Amplifiers, VVT and Quilter Labs.

“I decided early on not to get into a price war with Guitar Center over a $200 guitar, because they could crush me,” Nettuno continued. “So, we purposely don’t carry brands that can be found at any other store in the area.”

Nettuno, Keener and the store’s staff work hard to create a relaxed atmosphere with excellent customer service, allowing customers to discover new guitars from smaller brands they might not have heard of before. All employees at the store have input as to what instruments are carried. They even make a road trip to Nashville TN every summer, for Summer NAMM, to find new guitars for the wall.

“I make them a part of the purchase process, and Summer NAMM becomes a team-building weekend,” Nettuno enthused. “We drive down, so it’s an adventure.” He prefers the summer show not only because of its close proximity to his store, but also because it attracts the smaller builders, with whom he can network more easily. Team building is important to Nettuno, who credits his staff—which, impressively, has had no turnover—with Crossroads Guitar Shop’s success. “But for my long-term employees’ dedication and loyalty, I would not be here,” he added.

Crossroads Guitar Shop mainly focuses on under-$2,000 guitars, because Nettuno found that it’s harder to convince someone to buy a high-end boutique guitar when he or she doesn’t recognize the brand. He typically stays away from vintage instruments and used models, although, on occasion, he will take a trade.

Crossroads Guitar Shop remains focused on smaller, more niche manufacturers whose instruments “might be ‘off the beaten path’ in terms of style,” Nettuno said, “but whose build quality is great.” He elaborated, saying, “The visual style, how it feels in your hand, its balance…that’s what gets us to choose a guitar.”

“You never know what someone else will like, even if I think it’s cool,” Nettuno continued. “But, if the fit and finish are good, and if the design is interesting, then we can make it play great.”

If he has his choice, Nettuno will always pick a family-run manufacturer. “It makes for a good relationship, because we get to deal with the owner, not the rep,” he explained. “It gives us a meeting of the minds with the builder, so we know if they are someone we want to do business with. Is he committed to my success as much as I am to his? If not, I move on.”

“It keeps our product mix small, but we can unconditionally stand behind our products,” Nettuno concluded. “I don’t run profitability studies very often. As long as we can pay the staff and the rent, great! The rest is a love of music.”

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