A derelict guitar shop survives the chic renovation of the Chelsea Hotel

As the couple, dizzy from their high on contact with rougher New York, prepared to leave, Mr. Courtenay scribbled his number on a card and gave it to them.

“If you get lost or have trouble navigating the subway,” he said, “give us a call.”

If Chelsea Guitars has gained cultural prominence as an unkempt stash in the newly immaculate hotel, then Mr. Courtenay is its resident bard, who happily passes the building’s mythology on to anyone who walks into his shop, regardless of whether they’re an Epiphone Riviera of $6,000 1964 or buy the other adorable rare guitars or not on the walls. When you get him going, he shares stories of what he says he’s seen running the shop for more than three decades.

Joan Baez once stopped by and gave him leftover Chinese food for lunch, he said. When the band Oasis was in town, Noel Gallagher walked in and asked to see a rare Gibson acoustic kept in the back of the store. Mister. Courtenay was in a bad mood that day so he told Mr Gallagher to get him a cup of coffee while he picked her up.

During Patti Smith’s brief stay at the hotel in the mid-1990s, her teenage son Jackson would hang around the store playing Green Day riffs. And there was the time when ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons stopped by before heading to El Quijote, where a confrontation ensued when the restaurant asked him to take off his signature tassel hat.

“They told him, ‘You have to take your hat off,'” Mr Courtenay recalled. “Billy said, ‘I don’t take this hat off when I sleep.'”

There was also the guitar musician named Vlad, who seemed to know only a few chords and sang about his ailments in a nearby tube station in a heavy Eastern European accent and became known as the Polish Bluesman of Chelsea. There was also the mysterious woman who lived at the hotel, who was rumored to be from a wealthy family, who Mr Courtenay watched for years as she flagged down unseen taxis outside the building. And there was the store’s resident cat, a Russian Blue named Boris.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *