A second career gets its first strum
Brad Wegner got his first guitar at the age of 14. It was a gift from his parents. They bought it from JC Penny's.
The gift spurred a lifetime passion for music. He taught himself to play and in high school Wegner started playing in bands. He has continued to do so for more than 30 years. Currently, he is a founding member of the band FlashBack.
Now, at 53, Wegner is turning his hobby into a second career. On April 20 he opened The Guitar Shop in downtown Rosemount. The shop sells guitars and equipment, and provides lessons and repairs. Wegner said he hopes the shop will succeed and become a hub for area musicians
"I want it to be the go to spot for local musicians," said Wegner.
Getting to opening day, though, has been a long and tumultuous road that started in 2007. In February of that year his daughter called him to say his wife couldn't get out of bed. She was diagnosed with advanced cancer and died a month later.
The couple had two adopted children and Wegner decided he couldn't leave them in daycare, so he quit his job as a banker to spend time with them. At first, Wegner thought he would just take the summer off. But when the economy turned south, Wegner wasn't able to find another job.
With some money in the bank, Wegner decided to wait it out. He devoted his life to his kids, and while it wasn't easy, Wegner is glad to have gotten the chance to spend so much time with them.
"I had to tighten the belt, but it was worth it," said Wegner.
After five years, Wegner decided it was time to rejoin the workforce. But there didn't seem to be a place for him in the banking world anymore.
So, Wegner looked at his options. Music had always been in his heart, so he decided to make a career out of it. He attended a guitar repair program at Southeast Technical College in Red Wing. Wegner said Southeast has one of the top repair programs in the country.
At first, Wegner figured he could repair guitars out of his garage. But when he set out to start a business things snowballed into a full-fledged guitar shop.
"There is really nothing in this area," said Wegner of his reasoning.
A Rosemount resident for the past 17 years, Wegner wanted to open a place close to home. He found space in the old Rosemount mall in downtown at 14555 Robert Tr. S. The shop has a modern feel with blue and orange walls.
There's a stage set up for his band to practice at night. He also plans to hold acoustic jam sessions at 7 p.m. Fridays for anyone who wants to come down and play.
The showroom features electric and acoustic guitars. Prices range from $100 to $599 for a guitar. While he doesn't carry some of the higher end instruments, Wegner said he sells good guitars, perfect for people just getting started. The shop also sells guitar accessories, merchandise and consignment goods. People with good instruments or other equipment can bring their it in and The Guitar Shop will sell it. Customers looking to buy used gear can shop the deals.
The shop offers lessons by Donny Swanson with choices of full theory with reading music as well as a more casual learn-by-ear approach. Wegner said lessons are available for those who are just starting out or for others who want to brush up on their skills.
T-shirts are available with The Guitar Shop logo. The website 99Designs created the logo. Wegner said it was a neat experience to work with the website. To get the design Wegner offered a $300 prize and designers from around the world submitted designs. Wegner had his friends help him choose from more than 100 submissions. The winner and the company shared the award.
"It was pretty cool," Wegner said.
Currently Wegner is running the shop alone, but he hopes to hire some help in the near future. And even with 10-hour days on the horizon for the foreseeable future, Wegner is excited for this new chapter in his life. Above all, though, Wegner is thinking of his kids.
"I want it to be something the kids can take over if they want to," said Wegner.
The Guitar Shop is open Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check them out online at mnguitarshop.com or call 651-344-8177.