What's it REALLY like to work in a Denmark Street Guitar Shop?

Posted 23rd November, 2017Denmark Street, London. It’s the Disney Land of the guitar world, just with no roller coasters. It’s a hub for people from all over the world looking for their dream guitar, an amazing bargain, a beautiful or rare old guitar, or just to hang out in a unique place where they know they will be surrounded by like-minded people. Wouldn’t it be cool to work there… what would that be like?
There’s no doubt that working on Denmark Street, specifically at Wunjo, is quite possibly the coolest job in the world. I mean, apologies to those people working for a Formula 1 team, but Rock n Roll wins every time! Joking aside, there’s certainly an allure for anyone interested in music and guitars to come and earn a few pennies while surrounded by guitars and guitarists. It’s the obvious thing to do if you are ‘doing the music thing’. Indeed, this very writer himself came to Denmark Street over ten years ago with a pile of CVs, looking for some part-time hours to supplement the time spent writing and playing music. I got lucky.

But what is it really like to work here?

Denmark Street is a bustling street, and not only populated by guitar shops. There are cafes and restaurants too, and a hairdresser, and a sheet music shop in the tradition of what Denmark Street, or ‘Tin Pan Alley’, used to be known for, which was music publishing. And it’s in central London, close to Soho, Covent Garden and Oxford Street. There are people everywhere at al times of day. It’s busy. Very busy. So busy, that every time I tried to pin Brandy down for a 60 second interview, either a customer came in or the phone started ringing!
Despite what you might think, we don’t have much time for playing our beloved wares, as much as we’d like to. That has to wait until the doors close at the end of the day, (also known as Beer O’Clock) by which point most of us are way too weary to even want to look at another guitar.

Tiring as it is though, there’s something that keeps us all coming back. Brandy is a busy guy, even busier with his musical life than when he’s here at the shop. Like most of us, he has a band, writes, records, tours, and promotes his own music. Of course, we’d all love to be doing the music full time, but it’s tough to get the breaks, so a few part-time hours are usually needed to keep that pesky landlord at bay. Working in a guitar shop is a good match.

Tom S, who works at Wunjo Bass whilst touring and recording with various bands and projects illustrates this point. ‘Working here, I’m still surrounded by musicians, musical instruments, and a very sympathetic manager who allows me to pursue what I want to go out and do’. Whilst we all work really hard when we’re here, most of the guys enjoy a certain amount of flexibility that allows them to stay connected to their musical activities. It works both ways of course. The coolest guitar shops (and we are the coolest), are staffed by people who are genuinely involved in music. It makes it a very exciting place to be, even when you’re doing the hovering on a Monday morning.

The most important thing to any shop, though, is its customers. Our primary focus at all times is chatting to people from all walks of life who come in to see us, to play and buy the instruments, or maybe just to share stories or knowledge. Aside from the housework and running to get coffee, this is what we spend the majority of our hours here doing. Just chatting. All day long.

Lones who works in our keyboard shop finds this aspect of shop work the most rewarding thing of all. ‘It’s just communicating with other people and learning from other people. It’s the most inspiring thing, being able to talk to another musician and be able to have that other perspective. It can help you re-assess how you look at music and the music world’. So you see, dear customers, it is really you that makes this job so much of a pleasure. We know how lucky we are.

With such a broad range of musical instruments on offer at Wunjo and on Denmark Street comes a broad range of musicians with a broad range of talents. Anna, who plays in various nationally touring bands, contributes enormously to the Wunjo with her skills as a graphic designer. You see that beautiful new website? That was Anna who designed that, squeezing in the hours between time on stage and in the studio. With talent like that, what keeps her coming back to work in a crazy environment like this?

‘That’s a good question! For such a hectic environment everyone here is sound and easy to work with, and creatively it’s quite fulfilling for me as I have quite alot of freedom, unlike if I was putting my skills to use in a more corporate environment. It’s always busy, always lots to do, it makes the day whizz by. The only downside is sharing a toilet with 20 other blokes’.

By now, hopefully you have a pretty good impression about what it’s like working here at Wunjo, on Denmark Street. It’s a hectic, noisy, often quite chaotic and messy environment, and we’re crazy busy all of the time. However, we are a melting pot of music talent, and the stew that it creates is what makes it such a unique and fulfilling place to work. But the best bit? Is it being surrounded by the best guitars in the world? No. Is it being able to slope off work an hour early if you need to get to sound check on a Thursday? Nope, not that either. Is is occasionally meeting Noel Gallagher? Definitely not.

The best bit is you. Everyday we get to meet hundreds of people who think like us, who love guitars, and who’s dreams quite often we can make come true. We could have a decent jam amongst us, but none of it would be worth anything if it weren’t for the millions of interactions we have every day with people from all over the world who just wanna talk guitar and swap stories.

So please do keep coming!

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