The Jersey Shore is known for many things, including beautiful beaches and, of course, that reality show that ran on MTV for six seasons. The 141-mile stretch of land is also well known for its music history, including being Bruce Springsteen’s hometown, as well as some legendary music hangouts. My mission was simply to find the best place to shop for a solid, beginner acoustic guitar, spending $500 or less.
Since I have recently spied on the hip towns of Red Bank and Asbury Park, I prepared to look at competing music stores in other shore towns. Disguised as a middle-aged guitarist helping a friend to get started with a new guitar, I practiced a couple of acoustic licks sure to impress and headed out to learn what the stores had to offer.
Ocean County Music
619 Arnold Ave.
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ 08742
Arnold Avenue is a main artery in the town of Point Pleasant with a nice mix of main-street stores frequented by both the year-round residents and vacationers. Ocean County Music is conveniently located on a busy stretch of the street between the free parking on the main street and a large public parking lot. This music store looks sizable from the street and, while it was spacious, everything is in one large room. There were small PA systems, some drums and amps, but the stock seemed limited. I easily located the acoustic-guitar wall and was happy to see a nice assortment of body styles (steel string and nylon) and prices, but all the instruments were from one manufacturer. I browsed for a while, but was not acknowledged by the only sales person sitting just a few feet away. So, for a few minutes, the only customer (me) was not recognized by the only sales person, who was about 15 feet away. He was so quiet and motionless, I remember thinking that he would make a good spy. Eventually, our eyes met and it felt awkward.
I introduced myself as someone shopping for a beginner guitar for a friend and was happy to get some good information about beginner guitars. Before we got too deep into the sales process, I asked, “Do you have any beginner guitars from other manufacturers?” I thought it was a reasonable question, and I didn’t mean it to diminish the guitars on the wall, but I think he took it that way, and our conversation went cold. Instead of an answer, I was told how great Washburn guitars are. I understood his position, so I was happy to move on. I generated some conversation, complimenting several of the guitars, including a nice Washburn Parlor guitar around $300 and a big-sounding Washburn Cumberland at around $500. I was feeling like we were back on track.
Ocean County Music was offering a great price on a Washburn Comfort Series WCG25SCE electric acoustic with a built-in Fishman tuner/preamp system. I asked some questions that I thought would be important for a beginner, but was frustrated that our conversation always returned to pricing. To his credit, the salesperson was trying to show me the best deals, but he didn’t ask any of the important questions about how the guitar would be used or show interest in musical styles, nor did he offer any benefits that features or body styles might have for a beginner. When I asked about support and setup, I was told that they tune every guitar they sell.