Music and money strike a chord at Briz Loan & Guitar

Matt Brislawn learned about the intersection of music and money when he was growing up in Vancouver. There was only one musical instrument store in town and everything he offered was new and expensive enough to be beyond the reach of eager and under-capitalized young musicians like him, he said. declared.

The options for buying local music equipment have grown considerably since then, but adult Brislawn, owner of downtown Briz Loan & Guitar, proudly sells the same type of entry-level guitars and gear. opportunity he wanted when he was young. and forced to save his nickels and dimes.

“I got banned from music for years,” he said. This is because he couldn’t even afford a cheap guitar.

Ironically enough, the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the sales and salvage of pledged instruments to Briz Loan and & Guitar from healthy to booming for a while, Brislawn said. Activity has slowed down again, he said, but that’s typical of summer.

“Music is the ultimate indoor sport,” he said. “In April and May, the guitars were coming out of here. The store window still reveals a plethora of irresistible musical goodies, but tucked away in an interior corner are plenty of empty wall-mounted guitar stands, he confessed.

“Everyone at home got bored and everyone got these extra controls (stimuli),” Brislawn said. “When that check was deposited, it was like Christmas and tax refund season were one and the same.”

It has also been a season of youthful discomfort, he added.

“Parents feel like they need to put something in the hands of their children,” Brislawn said. “Other than the PlayStation.”

Dead city

The PlayStation was what Brislawn himself fell for when he was bored. Brislawn, 49, grew up near what is now Allen’s Crosley Lanes bowling alley and remembers skateboarding the streets of ‘ghost town’ – downtown from Vancouver when he was silent and still.

The biggest thing going on downtown around this time was a used stuff swap meetup, said Brislawn, who managed to save $ 100 for a new guitar by pulling a cart around the event. Then he discovered his mistake: a new guitar would cost him almost $ 300.

Discouraged, Brislawn spent his $ 100 on this PlayStation. But his dream is not dead, he says. When he was 18, a punk rock friend put a bass guitar in his hands and Brislawn fell in love with music again. Then his friend took him shopping at pawn shops in downtown Vancouver for a used amplifier.

“My life has been changed forever,” writes Brislawn in a brief bio on her store’s website. “I was now a pawnbroker dog.”

After Brislawn graduated from Bates Technical College and moved to Seattle, he performed in a successful band called Scar Crow.

“At one point we had a CD in every Tower Records in the world,” he said. But he couldn’t take time off from his day job to go on tour. Meanwhile, Brislawn began dating a new pawnshop near her apartment on Capitol Hill.

“The boss knew everything about the pawns. He knew the jewelry. He knew everything that went through a pawnshop, ”said Brislawn. “The only thing he didn’t know was the musical equipment. He wanted to hire me but I knew my parents would kill me if I told them I had given up my day job and went to work at a pawnshop.

Ultimately, they didn’t kill him. Brislawn’s new boss gave her flexible time off and the first shots on any musical equipment that came into their store. Brislawn said he spent a year storing gear in his tiny apartment – then he pursued his new dream, which was to open his own musical pawnshop in Vancouver.

This was in the mid-1990s, a time when city leaders were making big redevelopment plans for the “ghost town” – including the removal of pawn shops – and Brislawn managed to land the last license to operate. downtown pawnshop, he said.

“The city center was on point,” he said. “We still didn’t know if something was really going to happen.

Today there is heavy pedestrian and car traffic in front of the Washington Street store, which is just steps from the “best tacos and pizza in town,” said Brislawn.

“For two decades, no one has come down here, and certainly not heading south,” he said as downtown workers strolled past his store, carrying take-out to the front line. Wed. “It was also to the south that you could go downtown.”

This month, Brislawn celebrated 25 years of Briz Loan & Guitar by removing the mortgage from his building.

“The secret sauce brings something that Vancouver didn’t have before,” he said. “We also have expensive stuff, but cheap stuff is our focus. “

The motto of its staff is “Be cool”, he added. No hard selling, no pressure on anyone to buy what they don’t really need.

Mutual support

For about half of her 25 years here, Brislawn maintained a mutual friendship with her tenant, Mr. G’s School of Guitar.

MG is Michael Giammatteo, who said his friend called him with the idea just as Giammatteo got tired of both teaching in class and going to students for private lessons.

“He says, do you want to start a little music school?” I asked for a week to think about it, but Mrs. G said, “This is what you’re supposed to do. Call it back now, ”Giammatteo said with a laugh. (Yes, “Mrs. G” is his wife’s name.) Brislawn and Giammatteo go back and forth between their adjacent stores, they said.

“We are totally independent and totally connected,” said Giammatteo.

Giammatteo was up to 35 lessons a week when the coronavirus reduced that to next to nothing, he said. When The Columbian pulled up a few weeks ago, it was about to reopen its door – literally, to keep the fresh air moving and the risk of exposure low – and had hosted a student for a test.

“I’m always looking for a guitar,” said Christian Engleman, 15, while waiting for his dad to pick him up after class. To pass the time, he perched on a planter outside Brislawn’s store and tested an electric solid body.

This is how the purchase of guitars in the event of a pandemic works at Briz Loan & Guitar. Brislawn keeps the top half of her severed front door shut, passing equipment and money through the bottom. Since customers cannot enter, everything that is for sale is displayed on the store’s website. If you want to try a guitar, this planter is waiting for you.

One recent Friday afternoon, an overworked certified nursing aide was looking for a quote for a used bass guitar that she doesn’t have time to play these days. Another was looking for an analog-to-digital interface to enable home recording. These have also been good sellers during the pandemic, Brislawn said.

“It will be interesting to see all the bedroom recordings that come out of this,” he said.

More Stories
Staying strengthens the change management suite