BEST GUITAR SHOP (1999)
So you just gotta have a super rare 1963 Custom Telecaster? Well, too bad. The fellas over at Willie's unloaded that gem a few months ago (for $20,000, according to one store employee). But no worry, the Twin Cities' finest guitar shop has plenty of other vintage axes to choose from, with enough variety to satisfy even the most esoteric of tastes, from antique Martin acoustics to a 1953 Epiphone Zephyr Regent (now listing at $1,299). Since its founding ten years ago, Willie's has developed a well-earned reputation as the cities' top "pro-shop." Run by owner Nate Westgor and a proficient staff of five, Willie's sells both new and used equipment--including a very reasonably priced line of reissued Danelectros. But it is the vintage stuff (about three-quarters of the inventory) that remains the store's chief strength, especially seminal brands like Gibson, Fender, Martin, and Gretsch. Truth be told, just about any American-made guitar or bass worth its weight in wood has found its way onto the showroom floor at one time or another. Pictures and descriptions of the stock are included on the store's newly erected Web site, but international collectors ought to be forewarned: Willie's doesn't ship product overseas--part of a philosophical commitment to keeping classic American instruments in the hands of the players for whom they were originally built. Repairs and lessons are also available.