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Thread: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

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    Question Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    I've been lurking for a long time off and on. First time posting here.

    I'd like to go somewhere and put my hands on a decent selection of Mandolins. I am not having any luck in Los Angeles. I've been to McCabe's and all they have are Eastmans. Westwood Music literally had a $2900 Collings and a $299 Loar. Most of the shops around the city seem to also carry Eastman. GC has low end Loars. I'd like to get my hands on a Gibson F and maybe something else in that range. I'm willing to take a drive to get a shot at hearing a few different instruments in one place. Not sure if going all the way to the Bay area is what I want to do but Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Diego, and the like are all doable.

  2. #2
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    If you really want to try a Gibson, don’t look north or south; head 5 hours east to Surprise, Arizona!

    https://themandolinstore.com/contact/
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    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    If you really want to try a Gibson, don’t look north or south; head 5 hours east to Surprise, Arizona!

    https://themandolinstore.com/contact/
    I second this advice !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

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    Registered User Scotter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    I recently did the same and visited The Mandolin Store from San Diego. TMS had a wide neck Gibson that I was very tempted by. Actually, since I've recently ordered a Buckeye from Pete Hart, if anyone is looking for a wide neck Gibson, then I recommend that you just buy it ASAP! It's THAT good!

    I had also been wanting to try out some Mandolas, which they had, but instead fell in love with a Terse body Pono Octave Mandolin. I ended up jamming with the guy running the store and he gave me a free T-shirt! After having visited the store I wouldn't hesitate to order something from them on-line. Remember to check hours before visiting because they aren't open on the weekends.

    If you drive out that way, I'd also recommend that you visit Acoustic Vibes Music in Tempe:
    https://acousticvibesmusic.com/

    The Weber Rawhide Mandolin that they have on sale is awesome. I would choose it over the Collings offerings that they had when I visited and I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't played them side by side. Both stores were great and I look forward to returning to both someday.

    If you drive out from El Lay then you should consider just making a nice weekend out of it and visit the Music Instrument Museum. Currently, they are featuring a special exhibit on the invention of the electric guitar until September. I spent about three hours there on a Saturday morning but I could have easily spent the whole day there:
    https://mim.org/

    Lastly, if you want a nice 2-3 hour hike/climb then check out Camelback Mountain near Scottsdale.
    Play that which you feel is groovy, get down with your bad self, and shake your money maker if it makes sense for you to do so.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    We live in Idyllwild & feel your pain! GO to Surprise, AZ.
    I was out near Parker for the winter so I took the drive out to Surprise to meet the guys at The Mandolin Store. Dennis & Brian are very nice & helpful guys. They have allot of mandolins & mandolin family instruments on display and ready to play. I would suggest that you talk with them before heading that way just for giggles.
    Best of luck & if you find someplace near us let us know.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    Well, that's a pretty definitive answer. It's not really the kind I hoped for but it's undeniably unanimous advice. I was hoping to find a more domestically ambiguous means of considering a potentially expensive purchase - if you know what I mean.

    The funny thing is that I've seen a lot of the TMS videos on youtube and ended up on the site many times after doing searches. Not once, did I ever see the mention of where they were. I just assumed it was in the midwest somewhere. If I was producing their videos I think I would start every one with "Hi, this is **** from The Mandolin Store in Surprise, Arizona!"

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    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    This is a start. Norman's Rare Guitars has four older oval hole Gibson mandolins for sale. They are located in Tarzana on Ventura Blvd. Good luck in your search. R/ https://www.normansrareguitars.com/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    Another for TMS bandwagon, but realize it is in a modest little strip mall and is geared for online business, so call ahead and see when they will be there. Kind of make an appointment. You will see most of what you want to in one fell swoop. I have yet to see a new Gibson in the SF Bay Area.

    Walk into TMS and you will see a lot, but individual luthier mandolins are in Meccas like Nashville.
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    Dan Brooks lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    BillytheB, I reside in So Cal too, and have been unsuccessful in my attempts to find a mandolin store. I would need to take a short vacation trip to TMS if the need presents itself at some point. Stay in touch and let me know what you find if and when any new locations pop up.

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    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    Quote Originally Posted by UsuallyPickin View Post
    This is a start. Norman's Rare Guitars has four older oval hole Gibson mandolins for sale. They are located in Tarzana on Ventura Blvd. Good luck in your search. R/ https://www.normansrareguitars.com/
    N'sRG was on my list for my shopping trip last Friday but when I called, the person on the phone said all they had was a Washburn so I skipped it. I'm looking for an F with F holes but it's always good to hear a nice mando.

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    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    Another for TMS bandwagon, but realize it is in a modest little strip mall and is geared for online business, so call ahead and see when they will be there. Kind of make an appointment. You will see most of what you want to in one fell swoop. I have yet to see a new Gibson in the SF Bay Area.

    Walk into TMS and you will see a lot, but individual luthier mandolins are in Meccas like Nashville.
    I'm not sure if all the ducks will line up but I'm doing a cross country driving trip in late May. I might be able to influence a route through Surprise, AZ. We're definitely heading to TX and then northeast towards Kentucky. While there are probably many places to see mandolins it might not coordinate with when we're driving through any given area. Mandolin hunting won't be a primary goal but there is some room for improvising.

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    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    The TMS guys go in mid morning, look at online sales, prep and pack, and leave when the FedEx guys pick up, which is mid afternoon. Walk in sales are 1% of their business. You do get great treatment when you walk in. They are not your typical open at ten, close at seven shop.
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    Registered User Scotter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    It's kind of sad to think of how things have changed in SoCal over the years. Buffalo Brothers in Carlsbad used to be a premier destination for acoustic instruments and it's now closed. We've also lost House of Strings and The Blue Guitar in San Diego and they both used to have great stuff from some of the best acoustic instrument makers. McCabe's is still a fantastic place to shop but it's surprising to see how few and far between good acoustic instruments are in the El Lay area.

    If you're making a cross country trip it would be silly not to stop and do some shopping in Nashville. Gruhn's and Cotton Music Center should keep you plenty busy trying out stuff.
    Play that which you feel is groovy, get down with your bad self, and shake your money maker if it makes sense for you to do so.

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    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    PM me your email address and I'll send you to an acquaintance in your area who may be of assistance.

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    Registered User Al Trujillo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    Heck, I live in Colorado and am planning a trip to TMS next year. Except for a few places in MA, KY or TN there probably arenít better places west of the Mississippi for the rest of us out here in the hinterlands.

  19. #16

    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scotter View Post
    It's kind of sad to think of how things have changed in SoCal over the years. Buffalo Brothers in Carlsbad used to be a premier destination for acoustic instruments and it's now closed. We've also lost House of Strings and The Blue Guitar in San Diego and they both used to have great stuff from some of the best acoustic instrument makers.
    Bummer! Blue Guitar had some good stuff

  20. #17

    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    Allot to consider even if buying a lower appointed mandolin and especially when a well appointed one. The set-up can cost a few bucks and not sure if the stores close are familiar with mandolins. If you do purchase a quality mandolin then you may also want a less appointed one for traveling and picking in a group. The Mandolin Store had my mandolins to me in only a few days using Fedex, set-up included and no extra $$$ each time.
    I am pretty busy getting ready for a vintage trailer show but when I get back you are welcome to come up to Idyllwild. Bummer is that it will be very similar to what you stated about McCabe's & Westwood Music because I have a Collings MT2 and an Eastman MD305.
    If you played the Collings then you may not be happy until you get one!
    Best of luck with your search!

  21. #18

    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    Wow... I live here in the sticks of Billings, Montana... so I'm used to having to drive 8 hours to see a good selection of certain instruments. But I would have been SURE there would be a ton of awesome instrument stores of all kinds from the Bay area south... simply because there are 50 million people there.

  22. #19

    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    Quote Originally Posted by Al Trujillo View Post
    Heck, I live in Colorado and am planning a trip to TMS next year. Except for a few places in MA, KY or TN there probably aren’t better places west of the Mississippi for the rest of us out here in the hinterlands.
    I stopped into the Olde Town Pickin Parlor in Arvada, CO a couple of weeks ago and there were some stunning Collings mandos (and guitars) hanging on the wall. They didn't have a huge selection, but what they did have was really amazing.

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    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    Quote Originally Posted by BillytheB View Post
    I'm not sure if all the ducks will line up but I'm doing a cross country driving trip in late May. I might be able to influence a route through Surprise, AZ. We're definitely heading to TX and then northeast towards Kentucky. While there are probably many places to see mandolins it might not coordinate with when we're driving through any given area. Mandolin hunting won't be a primary goal but there is some room for improvising.
    If you're going to Texas, then you should try to route through Austin and stop at Fiddler's Green. They have an entire room of mandolins to sample. Plan on a couple hours...

  24. #21

    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    The economics of urban California are less and less conducive to small niche businesses. Land is just too dear. There has been an antiques row near my house in San Jose for decades. They all got eviction notices. This was retail space no one used to want. Now it's prime redevelopment land.

    Maybe the most comprehensive Steel guitar shop west of the Mississippi, Steel Guitars of North County in Oceanside, exists because it is a retirement job for a former veterinarian who runs it at a loss because it's his passion. The fine shops in the SF Bay Area are here in part because of the prosperity of the many tech workers in the area. They can carry a lot of inventory and charge top dollar for it. I was in Gryphon one morning when a couple came in looking for a Christmas gift for their young adult daughter. Bought an Eastman 815 without blinking. Her boyfriend played bluegrass so I pointed them to the F styles.

    But one thing is certain, all the shops in business have an online presence. I'd venture TMS has a rent that is 20% what it would be in LA. Yes, there are a lot of people, but stores would still be in business if they were flocking to buy mandolins. Like it or not it is what it is.

    Last I looked, I could get a round trip flight to Phoenix for under $400. If I were buying a $5k mandolin, that would be less than the tax I'd pay at Gryphon. What a screwy world we live in.
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  25. #22

    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    While this has turned into some speculation about why it's hard to find a decent instrument selection in a major metropolitan area I'll add this. Specifically here in Southern California, I am about 15 miles from where Eastman receives and distributes their instruments. I know at least one dealer that was getting a "consignment/floor plan" type deal from Eastman in his shop. He had a selection of their products, in particular a decent number of mandolins, that he did not have to pay for to have them in his shop. He only paid if they sold. I wouldn't be surprised if they did this in more shops in the area. Why buy a Washburn or Kentucky when you can stock your store with Eastman for little or no cost and only pay when it sells. Taylor used to/does this where you can get a store full of Taylors and just pay interest until they sell. I think the Eastman deal is even better.

    There was also a time where they were giving artist deals to just about anyone. At the time I was fully snobbing out on my Collings guitar and didn't press for an artist deal when I was at their place with a colleague from Los Angeles music institute. In hindsight I should have been open to striking up a relationship. I think their marketing has been somewhat off-putting for other brands in the area of Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Several Breedlove dealers don't keep any mandos in stock. Heck, Breedlove advertises mandos on their website but apparently they've been discontinued since 2016. I feel like I had similar experience calling around looking for a Weber. Nobody had any.

  26. #23

    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    Quote Originally Posted by BillytheB View Post
    While this has turned into some speculation about why it's hard to find a decent instrument selection in a major metropolitan area I'll add this. Specifically here in Southern California, I am about 15 miles from where Eastman receives and distributes their instruments. I know at least one dealer that was getting a "consignment/floor plan" type deal from Eastman in his shop. He had a selection of their products, in particular a decent number of mandolins, that he did not have to pay for to have them in his shop. He only paid if they sold. I wouldn't be surprised if they did this in more shops in the area. Why buy a Washburn or Kentucky when you can stock your store with Eastman for little or no cost and only pay when it sells. Taylor used to/does this where you can get a store full of Taylors and just pay interest until they sell. I think the Eastman deal is even better.

    There was also a time where they were giving artist deals to just about anyone. At the time I was fully snobbing out on my Collings guitar and didn't press for an artist deal when I was at their place with a colleague from Los Angeles music institute. In hindsight I should have been open to striking up a relationship. I think their marketing has been somewhat off-putting for other brands in the area of Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Several Breedlove dealers don't keep any mandos in stock. Heck, Breedlove advertises mandos on their website but apparently they've been discontinued since 2016. I feel like I had similar experience calling around looking for a Weber. Nobody had any.
    Good for Eastman for doing what it takes to keep a presence out there. I should ask the owner of the store 140 miles from here that I bought my MD515 from, what kind of deal he has with them. I'm on close terms with him, so he'd likely tell me. I'm headed back over there this Saturday, so I may ask him if I stop in.

    The Breedlove mando deal puzzles me. I used to have a pair of American KOs when I was last into mando. They were great instruments. Should have kept at least one of them. When I started to think about getting back into mando in January of this year, I ordered one of their new Chinese mandos from MF, because I'd played one somewhere else last year and it was really good. Nearly as excellent as their American models were. So I wait about two months for the backorder to be filled and then in March I get a call from MF saying that Breedlove had discontinued their mando line. I dunno what's going-on there. Breedlove sure do a lot of puzzling things like that. I've owned about a dozen Breedlove guitars (bought three American models in the past four months alone), and they are all excellent. In fact, though I've owned American-made acoustic guitars from various makers up to the $4K price point (including several Breedloves in that range)… the Concerto Sun Light E that I recently picked-up for $1600 is the most responsive, punchy, loud acoustic guitar I've ever played or owned. So they're excellent instruments, but Breedlove corporate decisions continue to puzzle me and much of the guitar world... which affects their resale value (a common complaint of guitar players in the know). Wacky stuff. Breedlove also used to sell a couple of models of American-made tenor ukuleles. I was so close to buying one during the time they were in production. Had I known that they would disappear, never to be seen again... I would have snatched one up while they were available. Their current Chinese ukes are amazing little instruments (the best sub-$300 ukes I've ever seen), but they only make them in concert and soprano sizes. I like tenors. I should snatch one up anyways... as who know how long they'll even make those.

  27. #24

    Default Re: Where to shop for a quality Mandolin in Southern California?

    I have this little theory, no manufacturer ever discontinues an instrument they make healthy money on. Now they may have two models that are very close to each other where they could up their margin using economy of scale by consolidating the line.

    No retailer discontinues anything they can make money on either, and sometimes a manufacturer has onerous purchase demands to buy instruments a dealer knows they cannot sell. Carrying inventory that does not move is expensive.

    Look at Ford dropping just about everything besides trucks and SUVs. I have a friend that got a great deal on a four door sedan. Manufacturers won't continue making cars they don't profit on.

    I'd wager that a lot of mandolins are carried by dealers that feel they have to to be considered a high end instrument dealer.
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