Weekly Q&A

[Weekly Q&A]

Cowtown Guitars owners Jesse and Roxie talk new digs, sleeper amps and Eleanors

The Amorosos have an amp for that.
Photo: Steve Marcus
Chris Bitonti

Cowtown Guitars, the local store that draws musicians for good gear and great advice, recently moved to Main Street after more than a decade on Maryland Parkway. As owners Jesse and Roxie Amoroso say, “It was a natural fit.”

Why did you decide to move the store from Maryland Parkway to Main Street Downtown?

Jesse Amoroso: We were just trying to find the right spot to move the store. We looked on Fremont East and all kinds of stuff, just never found a place that felt right. Then, when we bought the store in June, we started looking again. The new spot was one of those things that as soon as we walked in we could tell this is where we needed to move the store. It was just right.

Do you consider yourself part of Downtown’s revitalization?

JA: We live Downtown. We’ve both lived in Vegas for a long time, and we’ve always kind of hung out down here. So it was a natural fit. I’m thrilled to see what’s going on down here; I think it’s one of the best things to happen to the city in a long time.

As a gear freak, I check your inventory on the website all the time. Do you think online sales are the future of the vintage gear business?

JA: At the old location, it was kind of going that way to where it was almost all online sales. Since we’ve moved, it’s a totally different story. We’re getting a lot more locals and we’re getting a lot more tourists buying stuff and taking it with them. I don’t know what the difference is between here and Maryland Parkway, but we’ve seen a 60 percent increase in in-store sales.

That’s surprising. I expected you to say the opposite.

JA: Actually, I get guitars and gear in that never even make it to the website. We’re doing a lot more local business, which I’m thrilled about.

Roxie Amoroso: For somebody to stay mom and pop and stay in a brick and mortar location, it helps to have a really great online presence because it carries you through the lean times. You can keep rolling your inventory over for your clientele—the actual bodies that come in the shop—and keep things interesting for them.

The Details

Cowtown Guitars
1009 S. Main St., 866-2600.

You’re both musicians. Do you change your setups constantly?

RA: My basses are ever-changing, but I always go back to my ’57 P-Bass reissue. I have maybe more basses than Jesse has guitars, and I always go back to the same one.

JA: My rig is very sturdy and the same every time. I was one of those guys that just constantly changed stuff out. My pedal board would sometimes have 10 pedals on it, or sometimes it would have two—it was always different. It was like drugs for a while, man.

RA: It’s great for the customers, too, because where else can you go and know you’re going to ask a question about a pedal that someone is intimately familiar with, that they’ve tried every which way on three different cabs and three different amps and different guitars and whatever? Here you really can, because Jesse is so obsessive he actually plays and takes apart and fiddles with every piece of gear we sell.

Is there a sleeper guitar and amp that you can’t believe plays so well and is really undervalued?

JA: The biggest sleepers to me in amplifiers are some of the old Silvertones. The 1482s, total sleeper amp. They sound great; you can push ’em; they’re all tube point-to-point wired American amplifiers and most of ’em sound great. Guitar-wise, a big sleeper for vintage stuff, I’m kind of partial to Gibson Melody Makers. I always dug ’em.

Do either of you have an “Eleanor” of guitars? The one that you’ve always wanted but could never get your hands on?

RA: I don’t have an Eleanor, because I’m spoiled rotten and my husband gets me everything I want. All I ever wanted was a bicentennial Thunderbird, and he got me that the year our baby was born. I wanted a Gold Top; he got me that. But I always go back to my same old ’80s P-Bass.

JA: A 1959 TV Les Paul Jr. I let Eleanor go in 1993 in Phoenix, Arizona. I had the chance to buy one for $300. I didn’t have sh*t for money. I was living in Phoenix, and I drove all the way across Phoenix to this guy’s house. This was before the Internet and Craigslist and cell phones. So I leave, and I’m like “Man, I should buy that guitar. I’m gonna have to eat ramen noodles for like three f*cking weeks; I should buy that guitar.” So I pull into a Circle K, and I call him back and say, “I’m gonna come get the guitar.” And he says, “Oh man, I just sold it.” And I’ve been looking for that guitar ever since.


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