If you’re in the middle of Texas and looking for a good shop to go to, I can’t recommend Alamo Music Center enough. It has two locations, one downtown where they have recording and rehearsal space as well as a massive inventory of instruments in a gargantuan building that Alamo own all of, and another one elsewhere in San Antonio, specifically on Babcock Road, and this is the location that I recommend the most. It’s a split building with half dedicated to pianos, and the other half dedicated to guitars, basses, mariachi instruments, banjos, etc. The store is cramped and walking is risky with all the guitars surrounding you, but honestly, isn’t that what you want? I don’t know about you, but I want to lose myself in a maze of guitars with winding aisles with me practically walking sideways to avoid bumping into any. That’s heaven to me.
Fortunately for everyone who isn’t exactly like me, it isn’t quite THAT cramped in the shop and there are no winding aisles, but straight ones and you could walk straight and not sideways.
What I really like about the way the shop is laid out, though, is that there are surprises in store for you. When I walked in, I saw a ton of acoustic guitars and Fender electrics on the wall, but it wasn’t any more than most other shops, and the emphasis was definitely on acoustics. Not that I mind or anything – every day I feel like I’m becoming more and more of an acoustic kind of guy. But when the salesman and I started talking about guitars and I mentioned that I like Taylors, he pointed me to a room I hadn’t even seen where they keep their Taylors and Martins. Employees were photographing guitars, so he grabbed a couple and took me to another room I had no idea existed that had mariachi instruments on the walls, where I was left alone to play in a secluded room. After I was finished checking out the Taylor 214ce and 214ce Deluxe (and discovering the Grand Concert size, which really had an impact on me), I found two more rooms, one with more acoustic guitars, and the other with more electric guitars, basses, and amps. The salesman, Tyler Norris, told me to play for as long as I want – on any guitar that I want – but they close at seven (it was about 11:00). I think everyone can appreciate being left alone to your own devices to see what guitars fit you the most.
Now, all truth be told, I didn’t just go to try out new guitars. I was also testing the waters for a possible trade. I asked Tyler about their trade policy and found out that it isn’t horrible, but there were other possibilities like consignment or just selling on Craig’s List and coming back with the cash. I have been getting increasingly frustrated with the bridge and locked nut on my EVH Wolfgang, and was willing to let it go for a good trade, and found a pretty sweet Mexican Fender La Cabronita, but the trade didn’t work out. Not that Tyler wasn’t pushing hard with the manager. It was pretty cool to hear him in the office talking up my guitar and making the trade sound like the great deal that it was. It’s nice having a salesman in your corner!
But even though the trade didn’t work out, I still had a great time checking out new instruments, seeing some really cool instruments, and being around such friendly guitar geeks. The atmosphere was accommodating, the guitar selection was sizable and varied, and you could really get lost trying out a ton of new stuff. The store isn’t part of a massive corporation and has a big family feel to it. In short, I think this is the best guitar destination in San Antonio, and if you find yourself around the middle of Texas, you should make the guitar expedition to Alamo Music Center. You can visit their historic shop downtown, or you can swing by Babcock Road and see my favorite one. Either way, you’ll end up in a cool shop run by cool people.