Daryl Brook and his wife, Susanne East-Brook, are the quintessential "had-to-live-in-Key-West" couple, who finally made the move last year after vacationing in Key West for 40 years.
Daryl had retired from the corporate world and was immersed in his musical life that included a home recording studio and a performing country band in Islip, N.Y., where he played the pedal steel guitar.
"We'd always come down on vacation and enjoy the great live music scene and all the wonderful musicians," East-Brook said. "And he'd wander around and ask, 'This is great, now where's the local guitar shop?'"
Brook is one of those musicians who would flip through the local yellow pages looking for a town's downtown music shop, where he would meet local musicians, compare notes and look for the elusive used guitar that just happened to be the perfect fit for his hands and fingers.
"So last year, someone gave me a book that said, 'Quit your job and move to Key West,'" Brook said.
He and his wife took the advice of local authors David Sloan and Chris Shultz in their book of the above name, and started looking online for storefronts to rent and houses to buy.
"When we started comparing the size of homes down here compared to up North, we decided we'd open a guitar shop, partly to help us store some of Daryl's vintage used guitars and recording equipment," said East-Brook, who kept her job and telecommutes daily from her new home in Key West.
"We found this space online, along with our house, and we got the keys to both places on July 20, 2012," she said.
The shop space in Duval Square off Simonton Street needed renovations to the floor and walls, along with the addition of a locally painted mural on one wall to cover windows to nowhere.
The couple officially opened The Grateful Guitar shop on Dec. 2, specializing in the sale and rental of acoustic guitars and ukeleles, along with guitar repairs and accessories and an on-site recording studio.
The shop sells new acoustic guitars by Taylor, Takamine and Seagull, along with graphite guitars by RainSong, "which are popular down here since the graphite stands up really well to the heat, humidity and salt air elements here in Key West in all the outdoor venues," Brook said.
The Grateful Guitar also sells ukeleles by Kala, some of which are hand-painted by local artists and used extensively at "Uke Night" the first Wednesday of every month at The Green Parrot Bar.
They also sell guitar accessories like straps, strings, picks, amps and cables and rent guitars.
"People come down and get the jitters if they're away from their guitars for too long, so we rent them for the day or night," said East-Brook. "Our customers have been a good mix of tourists and locals."
"One thing we also noticed was lacking downtown here was a place to repair guitars, so we set up a full-service repair and servicing shop and hired a full-time repairman," Brook said, walking through his display of vintage guitars that are on sale in the shop, which accepts additional guitars on consignment to sell for the owners.
He has 1957 Gretsch, and 1957 Fender Telecaster vintage guitars for sale to collectors such as himself.
The in-house recording studio at The Grateful Guitar is perfect for a local musician who wants to record a few tracks, or a business owner who wants to record a commercial," Brook said, emphasizing that he's not out to compete with the other full-service recording and production houses in town.
"It may not make sense for the bigger guys to take on a small job, and it may not be affordable for a local musician just starting out and trying to put some demos in a bar owner's hands, so we offer hourly rates in the recording studio," Brook said.
He and East-Brook have been extremely pleased with the support they've received from the local musicians and fellow business owners in the seven or so months they've been open.
"Everybody's been so warm and welcoming," Brook said, adding that he also offers 45-minute guitar lessons to players of all skills levels and experience.