It's Our 40th Anniversary
Forty years after its founding on December 19th, 1971, Mandolin Brothers continues to welcome visitors to its well-stocked and uniquely comfortable showroom of fine guitars, banjos, mandolins and ukuleles and also to its brand new website that was just upgraded and re-launched on December 4th. Yes, it was on that cold, dark December night that Stan Jay and his original partner, Hap Kuffner, set off amidst challenging obstacles (they had to drive on Interstate 278 and cross the Goethals Bridge to get to Linden, NJ) where they met a man named Bennett who had a collection of early “The Gibson” tenor banjos. “These aren’t exactly what we were seeking” said Stan. “Do you have any other banjos?” Mr. Bennett took the lads to a walk-in closet at the bottom of which were dual paper shopping bags filled with hundreds of parts comprising two unassembled tenor banjos. One was an Iucci Baby Grand No. 5, to this day one of the fanciest tenor banjos we’ve ever seen, and also an Epiphone Alhambra Recording banjo. Coincidentally, both were made in New York City. “How much might these bags of banjo parts be?” they asked in unison and the reply was “two hundred twenty five dollars.” Stan asked Hap if he had $112.50. Hap did, Stan did, so they bought the parts, had them reassembled as the beautiful prewar tenor banjos that they were and, having capitalistical leanings, sold them for $1,000.
And so it came to pass that they bought a Martin guitar with the proceeds and sold that for $2,000 and then did something bold, they borrowed $3,000 from Citibank, rented a second floor walk-up right across the street from the bank in the Stapleton section of Staten Island, and hung out a shingle. Well, first they had to decide on a name to put on the shingle. Because just about every store at that time had the owner’s name or the location and the word “Guitar” or “Music” after it, being contrarians they decided that the mandolin needed more promotion than the guitar so they chose “Mandolin” and because they were two guys in their mid-20s starting a new company they added “Brothers.” Okay, then, the shingle read “Mandolin Brothers.” It was at that point that all sorts of recording artists, amateur and semi-pro musicians began to visit and to order instruments that were shipped to them via air freight and UPS. Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, Dave Van Ronk, Mike Seeger, Joni Mitchell stopped by; they delivered an electric mandolin to Bob Dylan and a Martin D-28 herringbone to Judy Collins; they presented a silver mandolin belt buckle to Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass, at a concert in Manhattan. The Brothers quickly became known as a source for some of the finest vintage and used fretted instruments obtainable, and in 1976 when the company moved to its present location at 629 Forest Ave, on the day they moved in there was a knock on the door and it was the UPS driver with 6 new Martin guitars. This was the first time they had ever offered a new instrument! And look where they are today! That’s right, just look at ‘em. (Is that man actually drooling?)
If you haven’t been to the Mandolin Brothers web site recently, now is a great time to go there. Just click this link www.mandoweb.com and breathe deeply, as it is redolent of the unbelievably aromatic cedar smell that derives from the kerfings of new instruments – the bouquet we wish came in a spray, the whiff that is delish, the flavor that makes one a raver, the aroma that makes ET phone home-a, the zing that makes one sing. At 40 years of age – a time when one may contemplate his or her purpose in life -- we still have the same purpose and that’s to make friends of our customers, to offer the best guitars, banjos, mandolins and ukes that can be obtained, and to remain the “Dream Fulfillment Center©” for musicians as it is prophesized in a sign over the door to the showroom.