La Casa del Músico, a Boyle Heights music equipment store that has been in the neighborhood since 1978, is closing its doors at 1900 1st Street for good.
Co-owner Noel Jaramillo-Venegas, 43, said the store a block east of Mariachi Plaza will close as early as Saturday, Oct. 7, and no later than Monday, Oct. 9, depending on what stock he and his wife Joanna have left in their storefront by the weekend.
Venegas has run the business with his wife for nearly ten years since inheriting it from his aunt in 2013. He followed his family’s tradition in supplying guitars, violins and other instruments to the community and to the countless mariachis who would walk over from Mariachi Plaza to buy replacement strings, picks, capos, and even new instruments.
Vihuelas? Yes. Jaranas? Definitely. A solid case for transporting a guitarrón? Mariachis could rely on Venegas for that, too. But lately, sales aren’t what they used to be.
“About 60% of all the people that used to come here, they don’t come here anymore,” Venegas said.
Venegas attributes the low sales to the loss of his older clientele, mariachis who have retired or have moved due to rising rents in the neighborhood, and the newer generation’s preference for buying online from storefronts like Amazon.
Despite struggling to keep his business along Boyle Heights’ historic 1st Street corridor, Venegas confirmed that he and his wife will pivot to moving the business online and promoting La Casa del Músico through social media once they close up shop this weekend.
“We’re trying to still serve the community,” Venegas said. “We’re kind of sad that we’re losing the physical store, but the business is still going to move forward through the web page and through our phone orders. I know it’s a historic place here in Los Angeles, but still, we’re still going to be there, just not physically.”
Sonny, a longtime regular of La Casa del Músico who preferred to not use his last name, said he was saddened by the news of his go-to music shop when he came in for a guitar bag. Now that his local store was slated to close, he said he’ll have to start buying from Amazon.
“It’s what they’re forcing us to do,” Sonny said. “I’m gonna miss them. The whole neighborhood is losing all of these old places. They’re all going away.”
And Venegas expressed a similar sentiment towards the community he and his wife have been serving for about a decade.
“We’re going to miss the clients more than anything. Of course, we’re going to miss the store, the street, and the community,” Venegas sighed. “But mostly the people that come to the store.”
A unique focal point in the shop is an oversized guitar, roughly eight feet tall. Colorful bungee cords run down the fretboard, acting as non-functional but just as charismatic strings. Venegas said it was built by hand by his friend, Fidel Muñoz, and holds sentimental value to his family.
“That guitar is going to be…”
Venegas paused, with heartache in his voice.
“It’s going to be the only thing we’re going to take. It’s going to be an ornament to remind us of the great history that La Casa del Músico has.”
Mariachis, budding strummers, and longtime musicians alike can visit the Venegas’ business at the corner of 1st and State Streets for the remainder of the week.
A LOOK BACK IN TIME
In 2012, our youth reporter Melissa Martínez interviewed the previous owners of La Casa del Músico, who were planning to retire and looking for someone to take over the business. Here’s her story: