Elderly Instruments: Remarkable Customer Service

Elderly Instruments: Remarkable Customer Service

What started out as 15 vintage instruments in a tiny basement in East Lansing has grown into a well-respected, internationally-known instrument showroom, repair shop and overall mecca for all things musical. Stan Werbin and Sharon McInturff opened Elderly Instruments in 1972 with the idea of supplying the local area with vintage instruments, allowing customers to try the instruments out on-site, and providing great customer service. Now located in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood, Elderly Instruments has turned into a mainstay amongst the local bluegrass, folk, and acoustic music community.

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Currently open for retail business at 1100 North Washington in Lansing, Elderly Instruments has been open since 1972 and is continues to be open six days a week. Photo by Sarah Spohn.

Not only is Elderly Instruments known around town as a ‘local gem,’ but big-name music stars also grace the shop in hopes of a shiny new Fender. Their celebrity clientele include Steve Miller, Vince Gill, John Mayer, Elvis Costello and members of Metallica and R.E.M.

Fellow Michigander and NBC’s “The Voice” finalist, Joshua Davis, spoke about the value that Elderly Instruments holds for both Michigan and Lansing in particular. Read more about it in an “Day 281: Steppin’ In It”. Elderly Instruments in Lansing is a petri dish of musical joy and has had a huge influence on all of us,” he said. “It’s an incredible resource,” Davis said of his band, Steppin’ In It.

In a personal note to his Voice fans, Davis even penned a thank you to Elderly Instruments for repairing one of his beloved guitars.

Former Lansing resident Joshua Davis performs with Steppin' In It band members at the Common Ground Music Fest. Davis is always quick to give a shout-out to the staff at Elderly's. Photo by Sarah Spohn,
Former Lansing resident Joshua Davis performs with Steppin’ In It at the Common Ground Music Festival. Davis is always quick to give a shout-out to the staff at Elderly Instruments. Photo by Sarah Spohn,

If you ask around the greater Lansing area, you’ll quickly hear about the sterling reputation that Elderly Instruments has with musicians of all levels. The business allows anyone to stroll into their building and pick up a $4,000 guitar to test out, regardless of your skill level. It’s the heart warming customer service of Elderly Instruments combined with their dazzling display of acoustic guitars, bass guitars, mandolins, banjos, harps, ukuleles, albums, books, t-shirts and accessories that keeps the store growing.

Elderly Instruments is a proud supporter of both international and local musicians. They’ve been known to sample instruments over the phone or via skype so as to go above and beyond the typical online posting for vintage gear.

Aside from being a supporter of the arts and music scene, Elderly is known in the area as a very close-knit community of helpful employees—many of which are in notable local bands themselves.

They also partner up with local organizations and artists for monthly bluegrass jams, ukulele and singer-songwriter meetings, recitals, classes, and more. There’s always sounds coming from Elderly’s.

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Elderly Instruments provides a host of different fretted instruments including mandolins, banjos and guitars. Photo by Sarah Spohn.

While the name suggests aged merchandise, they do offer new equipment as well. However, they are known for providing an array of high quality vintage instruments for over 40 years.

Despite the many changes in the music industry that have put numerous music shops like Elderly Instruments out of business, it has only added to Elderly’s success. They have taken the digital age in stride by revamping their website so that music lovers of all ages around the world can now experience their top-rate customer service with a click of a button.

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Elderly Instruments unveiled a new outdoor mural at their Washington address in Lansing’s Old Town this summer. Photo by Sarah Spohn.

Though the outside has changed a little over time—with the addition of an abstract, instrument themed mural on the exterior of the shop—the foundations are still the same.

The shop’s hardwood floors creak as you walk through the display rooms, filled with the sounds of young and old musicians testing out the merchandise. Downstairs is the eleven man repair shop offering top-notch restoration services. Here, the staff are just as much qualified and worldly musicians, trained at prestigious instrument workshops in Vermont, armed with certified gold level Fender electric and acoustic instrument technicians to take precious care of equipment.

The staff are quick to greet customers and visitors alike, at the door, offering advice, suggestions and great prices.

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Elderly Instruments is infamous for having an eleven-man repair shop in the building’s basement that can tackle even the toughest of restoration jobs. Photo by Sarah Spohn.

Providing quality customer service in a pleasant, welcoming family business environment has drawn local musicians, students, teachers and internationally known famous bands and artists to Elderly Instruments. Clientele walk in as customers but they always leave as family.

If you’re in the area, and haven’t yet had a chance to experience Elderly Instruments’ firsthand, be sure to swing by and test out the sights and sounds for yourself or sign up for one of their great events:

Dust off that fiddle in your grandma’s attic and join Erynn Marshall for the Southern Old-Time Fiddle Workshop at Elderly’s on January 9. For more information on this workshop and more, visit Elderly’s website and calendar.