With its multitude of banjos, myriad of ukuleles, and mass of every other staple instrument under the sun, The Folk Shop on 2525 N. Campbell Ave. has become somewhat of a local legend, appealing to professional virtuosos and first-time musicians alike.
Folk Shop owners, Paul and Brenda Blumentritt, have been a principal piece of Tucson’s ever-growing music community ever since first opening the shop’s doors in 1986.
When asked about recent rumors that the shop could potentially close down, Paul said they are “totally unfounded.”
“We are doing better than ever,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for 28 years and we aim to stay in business for at least another 40. We have too much fun here to close it, and we’d disappoint an awful lot of people by doing so.”
In fact, The Folk Shop has seen such a resurgence of activity that Paul and Brenda have hired two new staff members. Wally Lawder and Nate Rider share the shop owners’ ardor for playing and enjoying music, and specialize in selling, identifying, and sprucing up instruments to be the best that they can be.
“I’ve been a lifelong musician, starting with trumpet and ending up with the guitar a bit later on.” said Lawder, a local singer-songwriter with 5 albums currently for sale. “I truly love working here. I’m frequently surprised when, every day, I’m often not in a hurry to go home when we close up shop at 6. I don’t think many people can say that. I don’t delay getting here, either. I really, really enjoy being a part of the team.”
Rider was the most recent addition to the team, having quit his old job to join The Folk Shop during late October. Of his transition, he had stated, “You know, I just really love this place. I’ve loved it since I was a kid and always enjoyed jamming here, and now I’m able to enjoy jamming here most nights with the team. It feels like I step back in time when I come into this shop, but at the same time, there’s always something new with each day that passes.”
As for Paul himself, his venture to open The Folk Shop may not be as conventional as one would imagine. A chemistry major and a member of the basketball team during college in the 1960s, one would think that Blumentritt was as far-off as one could be from a career in music and business. However, when he had joined a “Kingston Trio-type choir,” his true calling was clear.
However, it was still a considerable amount of time before Blumentritt came to the realization to create The Folk Shop, and it only came after paying his own personal dues. “When I was younger, I essentially threw away whatever money I had traveling, and I knew that that had to change. Driving through Tucson, something about the community drew me towards this idea of setting up shop by the Salvation Army on N. 4th Ave., which is now Antigone’s … and now we are where we are today.”
With 28 years of doing business under their belts, the Blumentritts and company have seen a wide variety of locally renowned and world famous individuals come through their doors. Of the aforementioned Kingston Trio, Jean Ritchie is a good friend of the shop, as well as the Ronstadt family, and Joey Burns and Sergio Mendoza from the band Calexico.
With that said, Paul doesn’t let local fame get to his head. “At the end of the day, why we keep The Folk Shop open—and why the shop will never close—has mostly to do with our number one reason for opening it in the first place: fun. The people who are a part of this store and the people who visit this store are just the greatest. We have fun with our customers. We chit-chat with them, discover what they truly like, and get them exactly what they want for an instrument.”
When all is said and done, Paul, Brenda, Wally, and Nate stand as the cogs that continue to keep one of Tucson’s most essential musical staples in motion on a daily basis. With an everlasting commitment to quality, they aren’t afraid of expanding their vision, either. “We don’t leave when The Folk Shop closes at 6 p.m., and more often than not do we talk the day over and see what we can do to make our store even better. I’ve been in ‘the real world’ for years and have made a lot more money than I do now, but honestly, nothing can stop this job from being 100 times better.”
The Folk Shop on 2525 N. Campbell Ave. is open Tuesday through Friday between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information, visit the website at www.thefolkshop.com.