TEANECK, N.J. – Lark Street Music on Cedar Lane in Teaneck is a universe of guitars.
Its instruments span centuries. The oldest guitar hanging from its ceiling, a French one, dates to 1799.
Its customers are guitar enthusiasts around the world and some of the most famous guitarists of the modern age, including Robert Plant, Keith Richards, and Jackson Browne.
“Vintage instruments are better sounding,” said owner Bernard Levine. “They were made with thinner finishes and good aged wood and now the wood is aged even more.”
Today is a golden age of guitar making, which is why the shop also stocks modern guitars.
“But the new ones still can’t replicate the aging of the wood,” Levine said. “The wood vibrates over the years and loosens up. The glues change over time.”
Though guitars abound at Lark Street Music, it also sells other stringed instruments, including banjos, mandolins, and violins as well as the occasional vintage keyboard.
Devotees are after the sound and feel that comes with an aging instrument. Lark Street customers are local, for sure, but also hail from as far as Europe, Japan, and Australia.
“They all want American guitars because they’re the top of the heap,” Levine said.
Those who don’t play like to collect the instruments as art objects.
“You could think of them as investments, too,” Levine said. “They are also things people had when they were kids. They just want one again.”
Back in 1968, Levine got into the business after breaking his knee in judo class. He dropped out of college for a semester and agreed to help a friend who repaired guitars and violins.
Even today repairing and reconstructing guitars are a vital part of the business at Lark Street Music.
For fun, Levine plays a B&D guitar made in Connecticut in the 1930s. Because of Lark Street Music, though, he gets to interact with musical luminaries. The list includes Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Vivino, Sheryl Crow, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, and Smashing Pumpkins.
Lark Street Music, which moved to Teaneck in 1999, first opened on Lark Street in Albany in 1981.
For more information, visit www.larkstreetmusic.com.