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‘More than Just a Music Store’ – Five Star Guitars at 25

Christian Wissmuller • AnniversaryNovember 2023 • November 7, 2023

2023 represents the quarter-century mark for celebrated Beaverton, Oregon MI retailer, Five Star Guitars. For 25 years, the dedicated employees at this store have supplied their loyal customer base with repair services, lessons, and – of course – outstanding instruments and related gear.

Aside from being a go-to destination for area musicians, the stellar product offering has made Five Star a Mecca for players and collectors from all over. The business has been honored with a number of awards, including NAMM Dealer of the Year (2020) and recognition from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as Persons of the Year.

We recently connected with co-owner Geoff Metts to learn more of Five Star Guitars’ history, how they’ve grown the business, and how the adaptable and creative team continues to forge paths to success amidst an ever-changing retail landscape.


What was the catalyst behind launching Five Star Guitars back in 1998? Had you or anyone else on the team had previous MI retail experience? Was there a specific need that wasn’t being met for musicians in the Beaverton area?

Five Star Guitars founder, Ken Potter went from owning an optical clinic in the D.C. area to founding a guitar store in Oregon in 1998. Ken was a lifelong music fan, guitarist, and skilled instrument repair person when he decided to make a new start in a new industry. Along with his love of music, he had an entrepreneurial spirit and years of experience operating an independent business.

In those early days, can you describe the first location?

The original location was a 2,000 square-foot ranch style home that had been zoned for retail. It definitely felt cozy and had charm. For example, the “amp room” was a living room, complete with fireplace. Having been designed for residential, the building also had its limitations in parking, ceiling, height, and floor plan.

Again, back in the beginning, how many employees were there in 1998?

Initially, it was just Ken and his wife working open to close, Tuesday through Saturday. Within a month they started offering guitar lessons from Dany Oakes, who is still teaching at Five Star Guitars to this day. There were three full-time employees plus a couple of guitar teachers when I got the job in February, 2001. Jeremie Murfin got hired in the spring of 2001 and Johnpaul “Jeep” Simonet in January 2004. The three of us partnered to buy Five Star Guitars from Ken in February of 2012.

Cue to the present day: how many employees? How large is the store?

We just hired our 23rd employee! Our current location is 7,500 square feet with 12-foot ceilings. The building was effectively a blank canvas, and for the first time we had enough room to build out the floor plan we’d always wanted, including six lesson studios, a repair facility, a web content room, warehouse space, offices, and a shipping/receiving station. There’s plenty of parking and we have signage on the back of the building facing the highway which has proved to be quite valuable.

We consolidated two locations into this building in 2017 and purchased the building in 2022.

You mentioned Danny Oaks. Can you talk about the evolution of the lesson programs and repair offerings at Five Star Guitars? These days, how many other teachers do you currently have and are lessons taught on-site? How many repair technicians are on staff?

Lessons were offered within the first month or so of opening the store. Instrument repair was available from day one. Ken had a lot of experience with guitar maintenance, repair, and modification. In the early days there were just a few employees, so everybody did a little of everything. Ken would train the staff on guitar repair and made time after hours to help us work on our own instruments.

Currently we have nine instructors teaching a total of 250 to 300 lessons per week. All lessons are available online or in person in one of our six lesson studios. Our repair department has grown to two full-time luthiers and two part-time amp repair technicians. We offer certified warranty repair for most of the brands that we stock as well as repair, restoration, and modification on instruments and amplifiers.

You have a healthy stock of both vintage/pre-owned and new gear. What would you say the overall breakdown is in terms of total sales (volume), between new and used gear?

New gear sales account for about 60 percent of our sales, while used and consignment sales make up the other 40 percent.

Of the many – many! –lines you carry, what are your top-sellers?

The legacy brands represent the majority of gross sales including Fender, Gibson, Paul Reed Smith, and Taylor. That said, we have a great relationship with a lot of smaller companies around the country, as well as many local manufacturers.

Five Star Guitars clearly has a very strong sense of its place in the area. Can you talk about the importance of “community” to Five Star’s overall business model?

The importance of community to Five Star Guitars’ overall business model cannot be overstated. We recognize that our success is intertwined with the well-being and vibrancy of the local music scene. By actively engaging, supporting, and nurturing our community, we not only build a loyal customer base but also contribute to the enrichment and growth of the musical culture in our area, making Five Star Guitars more than just a music store, but also a pillar of the local music ecosystem.

We support music programs in local school districts and parks & recreation department as well supplying gear to musicians, studios and venues. We are supporting members and donors to local music advocacy groups and education nonprofits.

We are also working with local manufacturers to provide a showcase for locally produced instruments, amplifiers, and accessories.

We are also working at the national level to support the music community. Our website and social media channels feature not only product listings but also content that educates, inspires, and connects with musicians and enthusiasts. This online community engagement extends the reach beyond our physical location. We’ve also participated in the NAMM D.C. Fly-In, speaking with Congress to advocate for increased federal funding of music education. In November, 2023 my partner Jeep will be returning to D.C. for the Fly-In event.

In the business community we are active in the local Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Development Center and Entrepreneurs Organization.

Other than being recognized as Dealer of the Year by NAMM in 2020, what other milestones and achievements stand out when you look back at the first quarter-century of Five Star Guitars?

We’ve been recognized as a Top 100 Dealer by NAMM for 10 consecutive years. In 2018 we won NAMM’s “Best Store Turnaround” award. My partners and I were named the “Business Persons of the Year” by the Small Business Administration in 2016. We were the first music store to receive the award since its inception in 1965. It was almost surreal being in Washington D.C. for the first time and having guest speaker Mark Cuban hand us the trophy at the United States Institute of Peace.

I can only imagine! Do you have, or have you already had, any special events or promotions to mark the 25th anniversary?

We’ve been celebrating all year, telling our story on social media and hosting in-store events. We recently hosted a dinner for all of the employees, past and present. We had an incredible turnout, with some former employees traveling from out of state to help us celebrate. It was a very special evening of music, friends and reflection. It’s not often that we “stop and smell the roses,” so it meant a great deal to all of us.


Expectations and hopes for the coming months and years for the business?

Our expectations and hopes for the business are centered on growth, continued community engagement, delivering exceptional experiences to our customers, and providing meaningful careers for our employees. We base every decision on what will make Five Star Guitars a better place to shop and a better place to work – so far so good!

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