It started back in 1971, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sharon McInturff and I had both finished college, and we figured that if we searched for older fretted instruments, we could probably sell them, make a little profit, and have fun doing it. Within a year we had moved into a small (8' x 10') space in the basement of a retail building in East Lansing. The shop opened on July 5, 1972, with about 15 or 20 used instruments. We called ourselves Elderly Instruments because we planned to carry only vintage instruments.
We wanted a store where people could feel comfortable, be allowed to play the instruments — a rarity in those days — and find great prices and great customer service. Before we knew it, we were carrying strings, some accessories and (much to our surprise) new instruments, too.
Fast forward to 1975, and we had a 100+ page mail order catalog, plus a much expanded space in the building where we started. We knew a few things when we started, but we were constantly learning. We learned about instruments from experience, from talking with customers, and from the burgeoning world of vintage instruments. We learned about different kinds of acoustic and electric music from the LPs we were selling, from our customers, and from the many great musicians coming through town. We learned about running a business. As the world changed, we learned more and Elderly Instruments continued to grow.
By 1983, we had outgrown our original space, so we bought and renovated an old lodge hall in nearby Lansing. My partnership with Sharon ended in 1986. (In case you’re wondering, Sharon is currently in the antiques business, and still here in Lansing.) In 1988 we automated our inventory.
By the 1990s, our experience in mail order paid off when we created our first website. One of the challenging things about business is that every few years the technology changes dramatically. When we opened the original store, we did not have a cash register — we didn't even have a calculator. As crazy as it sounds, it was many years before even a hand-held calculator felt affordable. Now you can access our store through smartphones that fit in your pocket!
Even as Elderly Instruments has grown, the important things haven't changed. We're still a family business, with my wife Sandy joining the Elderly staff in 1990 and our daughter Lillian in 2014. The rest of the Elderly family includes over 60 stellar employees, many of whom have been here for well over 20 years. When you visit our Lansing showroom, we want you to feel like you are walking into our living room.
We still offer great new, used, and vintage instruments, as well as accessories, instructional materials, and even a few wacky things, all at great prices. We offer free advice, or we can write an appraisal that your insurance company will gladly accept. Our repair shop sets up most instruments (new and used), unless we are selling them AS-IS at a bargain price. The shop is also widely known for its professional restorations on any age acoustic or electric guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, and more.