Most musicians will readily admit it: Instrument shopping can be a mixed bag. Sometimes you find your new best musical friend; sometimes you walk out with little more than a faceful of sass and an eye twitch born of wheedles and crash smashes.
That's why having Fanny's House of Music -- the sound-stocked Victorian-era house at the corner of Holly and 11th -- is a good, good thing for East Nashville music-makers.
Over five years in business, Fanny's has become a multi-faceted, highly neighborly music hub. They stock your standard needs (strings and picks and cables and such), along with a mix of new and used instruments and -- the real jolt here -- a remarkably well-curated and busy selection of vintage guitars, amps and other stringed instruments. (If you're a gear nerd, Fanny's' Facebook page is a drool-inducer and a steady source of temptation.)
Beyond, Fanny's is also a friendly place to learn to play (with discounted rates for single parents), get your tools repaired and set up and, while you're at it, snag some vintage fashions.
As Fanny's is planning their big fifth birthday bash in March (more on that soon), we asked co-owner Pamela Cole to think back on an eventful five years, and share some ruminations on the past and present, and those incredible vintage treasures.
The East Nashvillian: What was your vision for Fanny's prior to opening?
Pamela Cole: "We wanted a music store that was comfortable for everyone. Our experience has been that most music stores focus on a specific demographic of young, male teens to twenty-somethings. We wanted to have a store that served those that are left out of that experience: women, children, working musicians, beginners, etc."
How have things changed for Fanny's over five years?
"First of all, we opened right after the economic crash of 2008, which put us in a unique position of sink/swim. So as the economy has improved, so have we. The more popular this side of the river becomes, the better we do as a result. Our neighborhood schools and community have improved our business too, as we get many of our students from the surrounding neighborhoods.
"Nashville has become a destination, and as a result of that we've had some very helpful press in national magazines that have now made us part of that destination. We have lots of tourists that walk through the door with claims that they read about us in the media.
"Of course, we're eternally grateful to Taylor Swift for her repeat mentions of Fanny's in interviews. Visitors from all over the world come to Fanny’s because of her. Taylor continues to inspire young girls to sing and write and learn an instrument. Quite a few have purchased their first guitar here as a result."
Your vintage gear selection is one of the best in the city -- do you have any specific finds that stick out to you as favorites?
"We like guitars with history. If it has a story, we want to share that with people. One that comes to mind is a Montgomery Ward Recording King made by Gibson in Kalamazoo, Mich., in the 1930s. A man who worked at the Gibson plant in Kalamazoo during the '60s, who specifically collected Recording Kings, found us through a friend, bought the guitar and took it back to Kalamazoo. So that guitar was able to come full-circle and go back home with someone who really appreciates and shares that sentiment.
"We have a Bonnie Raitt Strat -- which is one of only two female guitarist signature models in Fender's history. Similarly, we acquired a Women in Music Martin acoustic, which is one of 93 guitars made in that model.
"Recently we purchased a 19th century parlor guitar made by Austrian luthier Bernhard Enzensperger, who made a guitar for the classical composer, Schubert. Once we had a Harmony Vagabond that had been shot and the bullet exited through the sound hole; a '70s 4001 Rickenbacker bass guitar whose horn had been cut-off and strung like a lefty.
"A recent favorite is an Oscar Schmidt parlor guitar from the 1930s that had the original bill of sale. The bill showed that a 15-year-old farmer had made the purchase from Kunow Conservatory of Music. He paid $5 for lessons and $1 a week for a whole year to earn that guitar in 1936."
What made you decide to include vintage clothing inside the shop?
"I became friends with Libby Callaway of Diamond Star Halo Vintage clothing and she was looking for a space to put her vintage collection, and it just made perfect sense. It contributes to that feeling of comfortableness for people who might not be in the market for a new guitar, but are looking for a vintage shirt or skirt! Of course 80 percent of music is fashion, right? Libby's collection is at OMG now, so we have local collections Pink Star Vintage by Lynda Herdelin and Mom & Pop Culture by Anna Haferman."
Do you think being in East Nashville plays a big role in what Fanny's has become?
"It's our 'hood'! We've always felt it was a perfect fit. Our mission matches the location of 5 Points."
Visit Fanny's House of Music at 1101 Holly St. Snag more info at the official Fanny's website.