Scott Gerber had worked in music stores most of his adult life when he got the money together to buy his own shop. For more than 12 years now he has owned and operated Harbor Music on Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach.
The shop sells mostly guitars with bass guitars, ukuleles, banjos and mandolins mixed in. It also specializes in distortion pedals and building customized pedal boards for those aficionados that require a range of sounds. Want to sound like Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan? Harbor Music has it.
“People come in and ask my opinion. We'll plug in a few and see which ones they like,” Gerber said. “Let your ears tell you if you like it. You can’t base it on something you read on the internet.”
As in-store sales have declined, Gerber sells more and more of his products online through eBay, the store’s own website at HarborMusic.net or through Reverb.com, an online marketplace specifically for music. It’s through these outlets he has sold vintage guitars to buyers all of the world.
“Retail is going in that direction, so you have to have an online presence,” Gerber said. “You have to, otherwise you are going to be out of business.”
About three years ago, Gerber also started manufacturing his own brand of electric guitars, built entirely from scratch except the metal components, called Homer T. Designed to resemble a vintage Fender Stratocaster, Gerber makes them with a small team out of a shop in Redondo Beach. So far, they have produced about 70 guitars, he said.
“Our motto is custom shop quality, without the custom shop price,” Gerber said.
At $1,600 to $1,800, customers receive a truly exquisite instrument. Painted with nitrocellulose the way guitars were painted in the 1950s and 1960s, ensures a thin finish that allows the sound of the guitar body to resonate.
They also use a process to make the paint crack and appear worn to replicate age and even get that interesting change in colors that typically comes with older 1960s era electric guitars.
Gerber said he started producing the Homer T electric guitars about three years ago after receiving a letter from the Fender company saying they would no longer be using small dealers and would sell their guitars through an online marketplace instead.
“They said they were no longer in need of our service,” Gerber said. “Independent dealers are what put Leo Fender on the map.”
Along with running the shop, Gerber also plays in a band called Homer T and the Crashers, which gigs in bars throughout the South Bay. Harbor Music also offers guitar lessons taught in the store by an independent teacher.
Above all else, Gerber said he’s happy to just be around music.
“I still like playing guitar the most,” he said. “It's nice being in a job where people come in and want to talk about their guitars as opposed to a lot of other things I could be doing in life.”
Harbor Music is located at 1024 S. Pacific Coast Highway. For more information visit HarborMusic.net, call (310) 406-3090.