I have to agree with the general experience of the Guitar Center stores... there's a reason they call it that! Now, I also play guitar, and occasionally have use for such a store. But it reminds me of the cereal aisle at the grocery store. They offer many different names and colors and styles of the low-end non-nutritious cr#p, and very little of quality... and what is there is overpriced and still no substitute for a home cooked meal (if you'll pardon the overextended metaphor!).
The average age of their staff is 22, and most of their musical experience has been in garage bands. I brought an interesting and unique mandola in one day looking for a new case... for security reasons, they make you take it out of any case you might already have...and was walking around the store with this beautiful vintage instrument...it SO didn't belong in there...and none of the staff even knew what it was. There was one nice customer who knew what he was looking at and I had a nice chat with him.
Needless to say, they didn't have a case or strings for the thing.
Otter OM #1
Brian Dean OM #32
Old Wave Mandola #372
Phoenix Neoclassical #256
If you're gonna walk on thin ice, you might as well dance!