New business moves into old Saratoga guitar
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A young Brian Eno, his face beaming with dynamism and wonder, bumps jackets with Barbara Streisand draped in a Superman t-shirt and sporting a pair of tube socks. Two rows away, Peter, Paul and Mary share smiles in front of a brick wall in Greenwich Village marking their debut, circa 1962. Next to them, the Clash scows along a brick lane in Camden Market in North London marking their debut, circa 1976. A collection of stringed instruments break free from their protective cases a few yards away. Memories of Matt McCabe, the former longtime occupant of this space, permeate the room.
“I am a luthier by trade”, explains Thomas Dunn. “I come from six generations of luthiers, so there’s a lot of tradition here: the oldest family of luthiers in the world, being able to carry on a tradition from Saratoga, and honoring Matt’s memory. It’s something that’s cool for both of us.
This “we” is Thomas Dunn and Jason Planitzer. The two embarked on a collaborative effort to open a new store at 480 Broadway, located next to City Hall and Saratoga Music Hall in space previously occupied by Saratoga Guitar.
Dunn’s expertise is musical instruments. Planitzer is into vinyl records. “We were both looking for a space, we met, we liked each other’s vibes and we thought: maybe we could do something together. So we decided to share this space and make this kind of the musical center of Saratoga,” says Dunn.
They hope to open the store this weekend. Once fully operational, it will include new and used instruments for sale to players, musical instrument lessons, instrument repair and restoration, and a full range of accessories – from strings and pedal picks and more.
For music fans and vinyl collectors, the store will also offer a collection of albums.
“The stars have aligned and we’re in a position to continue the tradition,” says Planitzer, a Pittsburgh native who moved upstate with his wife in January after living in Brooklyn for 15 years.
“I’ve been collecting since I was in college, it’s been 20 years now, and during the pandemic my collecting got a bit out of hand,” he laughs. “It has increased exponentially.”
Planitzer said he hopes to start with 2,000 to 3,000 mostly used drives. An existing relationship with music distributors will also allow it to offer new vinyl. “We will buy, we will sell, we will trade. Like for guitars and string instruments,” he says.
Despite the ever-changing soundscape of technologies in previous decades, there remains and is growing a market of people who love vinyl records. In 2021, the resurgence of vinyl records continued for the 15th straight year, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. And new vinyl revenue has grown 61% to $1 billion in the past calendar year — after last surpassing the $1 billion mark in 1986, according to an article published by Variety in March and titled: Vinyl Sales Soar.
“I work in cinema and television, I do location scouting; I read scripts then I go and look for the places where they are filming. That’s what I’ve been doing in New York for the past 14 years and now more and more movies are coming upstate – filming in Schenectady, Troy, in Albany,” says Planitzer. He calls his part of the collaboration with Dunn: Off-Track Records. “It’s something I can do on top of film work, kind of like I did in Brooklyn. At that time, I was working at a record store – it’s called Record Grouch – and it was awesome. I love buying music from a store. I get a lot of music online now, and I think we all do, but there’s nothing quite like going to a store.
6and Violin Generation
Dunn continues the traditions of the Frirsz family of violin makers who began making violins in the mid-1800s. Hailing from Hungary, they are known as the oldest family of violin makers in the world, spanning five generations. Maximilian, a fourth-generation family member, moved to North America and eventually opened a boutique in midtown Manhattan, where he became one of the nation’s foremost luthiers and restorers. Max’s son, Nicholas, took over the business in the 1980s and moved to Saratoga Springs in the 90s.
As a teenager, Dunn began working with fifth-generation master Nicholas Frirsz on small repairs and learning how to make violins. In 2011, Dunn became a full apprentice with Frirsz. Dunn calls his segment of the collaborative space Sixth Generation Violin – carrying on the family methods, traditions and secrets of violin making.
“These bonds we’ve built over six generations,” Dunn says. “And we will have a range of new and used instruments for sale, from high-end instruments from one-off manufacturers and luthiers, bespoke, to student rentals – violins, cellos, guitars, ukuleles, fretted instruments. ”
A room where music lessons will be offered is being set up at the back of the store, and Dunn says an instructor will include someone who has worked for Matt McCabe before.
The men say they aim to bring a personal touch and human attention to the community of music lovers and practitioners in the area.
“We are thrilled to be here and hope to be part of the Saratoga music community for years to come,” Dunn said.
Planitzer and Dunn say they hope to open this weekend and plan to be open most weekdays during regular business hours and weekends from noon to 5. For more information on Sixth Generation Violin and Off-Track Records, visit the store at 480 Broadway, or call 518-893-9188.