Monday, October 2, 2017

Matt Umanov Guitars


After nearly 50 years in business, Matt Umanov Guitars has announced they'll be closing.

On the shop's website, Umanov writes:

"After fifty-three years of having been in the business of helping so many guitar (and all the other fretted instruments) players have the tools with which to make music, forty-eight of those years at my store here in Greenwich Village, in the great City of New York, it is finally time for me to close this chapter of my life, relax some, travel some, play with the grandkids, all that kind of thing, though I wouldn’t quite call it 'retirement'; I’ll still be around."

(Thanks to Jarrod for the tip.)

Umanov, a native of Brooklyn, opened his first shop on Bedford Street in 1969 and moved to this spot on Bleecker in 1982.

In 2013, he told New York Business Journal: “Bleecker was the shopping street for Italian immigrants in the Village. We had two fish stores, five bakeries, children’s stores and furniture stores." Most of those shops have vanished, and now Umanov will go with them--though he owns the building.

"Back in 1992," Business Journal reported, "Umanov was given the opportunity to acquire the building. He seized the day and bought it. 'It enabled me to stay in business. Without buying it, I could never afford the rent,' he acknowledged."

photo via GVSHP

In today's goodbye note, Umanov concludes: "I think that what I’ll miss the most will be having what someone called 'my clubhouse,' where so many of you have come over the years to look, to buy, to get their treasured instruments back into working shape, to hang out and shoot the breeze. I’ll miss the unpredictable, terrific array of all of you coming in and being who you are, fascinating and wonderful every one, made my day, every day."


  1. Sometimes, they close just because the owner is finished.

    I wonder if he'll rent out the first floor or sell the whole building now.

  2. Please know I am happy for you being able to retire and spend time with your family. I am a little sad to know this wonderful shop is closing. I bought my very first guitar there, a Sigma edition you guys had. I came back several years later and bought my Martin, a custom shop model someone backed out on and you told me "If you ever want to sell it, I'll give you what you paid" Of course, you knew I'd never sell it. I have so many friends who bought guitars from you. I always loved walking by your shop to see the goodies in the window. Between this and the closing of Mandolin Bros on Staten Island, I'm feeling nostalgic for you guys. Best of luck and thank you!

  3. Matt's a good guy, and I wish him well. This feels sad, but the natural way of things. At least it's on his own terms. We lived above his store for a couple of years, the best apartment I ever had in so many ways. This was in the early 90's. It was a wonderful block to live on then, the smell of Zito's bread and foccacia baking at 4Am would waft into our windows, always running into this weird, heavy-set, redhaired chef in orange clogs around the corner at Po, shopping at Murray's and Faicco and Ottomanelli's, getting pizza across the street from John's, perusing the bookstore, the laundry around the corner where the pizza place is now, and the two vegetable stores/delis down the block - all those great small stores made the very noisy, tourist and frat boy weekends almost bearable. It still felt very much like an Italian neighborhood, with older people who had been there forever sitting in storefronts, or leaning on counters or commenting on my growing pregnancy, and then cooing over our newborn son. At the end of our lease, we were lucky enough to be able to buy a place 10 blocks north, but most weekends for years, we spent in Bleecker playground. Watching Bleecker Street change so radically, watching that neighborhood slip away in such a short time has probably been one of the saddest things about living downtown for 30 years.

  4. Lol the same place that gets mad when you touch a Mexican Strat or Tele? I’m surprised they weren’t killed off sooner by obvious lower prices and real genuine customer service. O wait this is NYC where you’re buying the rent and location of the place itself in addition to the products the place sells.

  5. Stopped in one day all way back in 1978 -- at the earlier location on Bleecker -- saw a 1945 Gisbon j45 on the wall. I was a penniless songwriter/photographer in need of a "real guitar," but I knew I could not afford the $600 price tag. Against my better judgement I asked to play it. The sound blew me away. Just at that moment the songwriter Steve Forbert walked in. I knew him a little and asked for his opinion of the guitar. He loved it.

    I was desperate for this guitar and worried someone else would buy it. Matt said that for $20 he would hold the guitar for 2 weeks. I plunked down the 20 and walked out of the shop excited, but depressed at the same time, because there was no way I could come up with the remaining $580. The days sped by, and with only a couple of days left, I still had no money. One evening I went to a gathering of my songwriter friends hosted by a supportive non musician fan. I told everyone there about my dilemma. When I got home that night, I noticed something in my coat pocket -- it was a check for $500 -- written by the guy who invited us to his apartment. I ran to Matt Umanov's the next day, and bought the guitar.

    I still have it. It still sounds great. I eventually paid back the $500.

  6. This guy was definitely not loved by sellers or serious collectors. No surprise he is closing in order to get the max out of the building sale. Like everything else, whether it is vintage guitars, book stores, interesting ground level mom and pop retail, or has all moved to Brooklyn.

  7. Ever spoken to an ex-employee or former members of the repair staff? To say he was/is not well loved is a grand understatement.

  8. I've known Matt from the Bedford street days when you could walk in and play (strum in my case) with Doc Watson. Loved to go to the shop. Never know who you will see. Ended up strumming with a lot of great people. Always a great guy who treated all with respect and class. Will miss the guys and the feeling of warmth when ever I was there, I know I will miss you.

  9. Another time capsule leaves Bleecker Street. Sad. I lived near Umanov's in the late 90s and would browse every so often. Bleecker between 6th and 7th seemed to be more like a village back then.

  10. Oh boy ! Jeremiah...
    I love your site and find it so interesting and important but I have to admit that I've lately been scared of checking it out.
    Everytime I connect to your blog, I see one of "my own New York city landmarks" vanishing or the disapearance of a place I wish I had known and didn't visit or experience in the 90's...Very painful...
    Being a young man and student in 1990's New York was the best experience of my life as I loved the city, its atmosphere, its stores and its people.
    But slowly this New York is vanishing away and I feel like next time I travel to Manhattan from Paris, I will not recognize the New York I enjoyed so much (and that made me who I am today). Maybe part of it is just me getting older and missing my young days as a new yorker but I know it's much more than that (as your book demonstrates so well).
    I only have my 90's photos as a memory and to remember this time...The closing of Umanov makes me feels so sad !!! I'm not looking forward to the future news I'll discover on your site but I know I won't resist to find out what the latest casualties are. And feel sad about it...again.
    Grégoire Alessandrini

  11. Back in the 80s I had a lot of guitar work done here, Matt was always helpful and even nicer was Katie Clements. Bought plenty of strings, picks and an amp or two (when he had a sale).

    The fondest memory was in the 90s - I found a newborn bird flopping around on the sidewalk in front of Matt's. I walked in with this little thing and the workers offered a lot of good bird caring advice.

    Sure there was plenty of attitude in here, but I looked past that and always got a hello and smile from Matt & company, seems that strangers weren't always welcome but regulars were treated differently. Perhaps not the best business model, but it worked in the Village and for Matt. I wish Matt a happy retirement, you were part of my life and added so much to it. Thank you.

  12. In 1973 I was looking to purchase a Martin D28. Matt let me try almost every D28 in the shop but I was still not happy with the ones I played. Matt finally brought a guitar out of the back that had a piece of tape on the case with a star scribbled on it. In 5 minutes I knew this was the one! Paid him the $400 he was asking and walked out ecstatic. I still have that guitar. Thanks Matt!

  13. He hated everyone. He hated one of the finest luthiers in the US Charles LoBue. I went into his store and he knew I used to hang out in Lobules store. He took a hammer an banged on a cabinet and yelled LoBue is an Ass+hole, and threw me out of the store. I was 15 at the time. He was mad because Charles would teach us how to fix what was broken.

    I wish him the best. I bet the dent is still there.

  14. Mostly positive with a few negative comments here. Here's my story about Matt Uminov Guitars. I'm a photographer and for the past several years have been trying to capture images of as much of the "old New York" neighborhoods as possible before it's gone. One day I was on Bleecker, photographing the Uminov storefront and shooting into the store windows. Matt poked his head out the door and said, "why don't you come in and shoot what you'd like from inside". I spent about 20 minutes shooting without any further comment from Matt. His only request was, please don't photograph the customers. Thanks Matt, enjoy your retirement, anyone in retail for 50 years has earned it!


Comments will no longer be published. Too much spam, not enough time. Thank you.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.