On the right evening, a glance inside the window of 521 W Kirkwood Ave. will reveal live music from Alex Mann’s band. But it’s no party — Mann is at work.
He recently became the manager of Bloomington Guitar & Amp, a vintage and consignment guitar shop on West Kirkwood Avenue that also offers repair work.
In addition to this role, Mann works at the Atlas Bar and the Community Kitchen of Monroe County.
He’s also in three bands and said he often has his band practice in the shop to make things easier.
“It’s a good space to have a practice,” he said. “You can’t really get too loud, but the softer ones.”
The space has held the small-budget music shop since it opened in 2013, he said.
Its original owner, Evan Whikehart, had been playing music with Mann for more than a decade.
Mann said he started working part-time for Whikehart as soon as the shop opened.
“I just told him I thought it was a great idea and if he needed any help, you know, I was around,” Mann said.
Even though it’s a young business, Bloomington Guitar & Amp has still managed to appeal to a niche market because of its repair work and selection of used equipment, he said.
True to its name, the shop primarily focuses on repairing guitars and amplifiers.
“The amp repair is pretty popular because we’re the only ones who do them in town,” Mann said.
It’s also the only shop in town to offer hand-wound guitar pickups and installment, he said. Whikehart offered this service when he owned the place and still comes back for a few jobs every month or so.
“He wanted to stick around and still be involved,” Mann said.
Bloomington Guitar & Amp’s niche repair work comes in handy for a lot of touring bands, Mann said. In the past, bands like the Meat Puppets, Screaming Females and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth have all come in for last-second fixes.
For Mann, meeting bands on tour is one of the coolest parts of the gig.
“Hopefully there’s enough word of mouth in town where people are like, ‘Oh, you only have an hour before the gig. Go over to Bloomington Guitar & Amp,’” he said.
He does most of the guitar repairs himself on a small workbench behind the front desk.
There’s never more than one person working in the store, he said, but the low-key nature of the shop makes most days manageable.
“I’d say on average it’s pretty mellow because I have enough time to do the repairs that I need to without customers walking in every minute,” he said.
Still, the shop enjoys its fair share of regulars.
He said some guys are always around to fill their basic equipment needs.
Others frequent the shop to sell their own equipment through it, Mann said.
One of these regulars is John Mellencamp’s guitarist.
“He’s looking mostly to sell,” he said. “I mean he’s got a warehouse full of gear. He’s trying to downsize.”