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Vintage sounds: Noblesville resident offers live music for bands at guitar shop

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Kevin Heffernan pauses with a vintage guitar on the Center Stage Vintage Guitars stage. (Photos by Anna Skinner)

Center Stage Vintage Guitars continues to add music to peoples’ lives, even amid a pandemic.

In February 2021, the vintage guitar store and repair shop will celebrate seven years at its Noblesville location, 998 S. 10th St., but owner/luthier Kevin Heffernan has been immersed in music for much longer than that.

“I grew up around instruments,” the 65-year-old said. “Every day since I was old enough to know what a guitar was, I have fallen in love with them. I have a lot of relatives and family members that played. It was always a normal thing at our family reunions to have someone sitting around playing a guitar and singing something.”

Heffernan started Center Stage Vintage Guitars in his Noblesville home, but when the business grew, he sought out a storefront.

“I drove by here one February and saw the for-lease sign in front of the building and have been here for six years now,” he said. “That was 2014.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, business at Center Stage Vintage Guitars has been steady, but Heffernan said a larger percentage of sales are through his online platform, centerstagevintageguitars.com.

“When times are hard, music is always a nice surrogate,” he said. “It takes the brain away from focusing on the drama, and a lot of people have picked up playing because they can’t do anything else but sit at home and do something productive like learn an instrument.”

Besides selling vintage guitars, buying and trading guitars and repairing and restoring guitars, Center Stage Vintage Guitars has been hosting live concerts. Band performances are streamed live on Facebook and Instagram. Band musicians have the option to use Heffernan’s vintage drums, vintage amplifiers or any vintage guitar they want to play in the store, or they can use their own equipment. Typically, they use Heffernan’s.

“They prefer the vintage, most of them,” Heffernan said. “I get some pieces in here around $10,000 that they won’t get to play ordinarily. I (recently) had a band in, and (the musicians) used three or four different guitars from the store during the performance.”

Heffernan also supplies a PA system.

“It’s all done pro bono,” he said. “We just do it for the bands so people can see them. I feel sorry for musicians because there’s no place to play, and this offers them an option to reach out to their fans.”

Performances are booked out until March 2021. The bands perform at 3 p.m. each Saturday. Matt Newell works at the shop and hires the bands, helps with set up and does IT work for the online performances, among other tasks. Ninety percent of the performances are by local bands, but acts from Nashville, Tenn., and Cleveland have performed at the shop. All genres are welcome. Heffernan said bands play everything from rap to bluegrass.

When he’s not selling or repairing guitars, Heffernan teaches luthier skills. A luthier is a craftsperson who builds and repairs stringed instruments.

The next performance is Doug Henthorn Dec. 12. For more, visit centerstagevintageguitars.com or follow Center Stage Vintage Guitars on Facebook and Instagram.

Kevin Heffernan works on a complete restoration of a guitar.

Famous faces

Noblesville resident and luthier Kevin Heffernan has seen his share of famous musicians in his Center Stage Vintage Guitar shop on 10th Street in Noblesville.

Heffernan sold a 1954 Fender Telecaster to blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa for $22,000. He also has sold guitars to Brad Paisley, Jim Irsay and has jammed with members of The Who and Santana.

“They come here before a show (at Ruoff Music Center) just to hang out,” Heffernan said. “They pull up vintage guitars on the internet and see that the biggest vintage guitar store in Indiana is in Noblesville and they’re playing in Noblesville. There’s been a lot of famous people in here for it being a little store in the Midwest, but it’s the vintage guitars that bring them in, for sure. They love vintage.”


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