By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Step into Nevada Exchange on Broad Street in Red Bank these days and you’re likely to get a history lesson from a feisty Italian-American woman with a passion for a certain brand of esoteric hand-made guitars. Because unless you’re among the cognoscenti on Depression-era guitars, you probably don’t know the importance of D’Angelico guitars and how they now fit in with Red Bank, at least according to Liz Barulic, the Exchange’s manager.
Barulic is a both a student and teacher of the John D’Angelico story. The late New York City-based luthier hand crafted some of the most coveted archtop guitars in the industry between the 1930’s and 1950s, but didn’t quite have the recognition of, say, Les Paul or Leo Fender. That’s where Barulic and Nevada Exchange come in.
Opened as a hybrid antique shop/guitar store a couple of years ago, the Exchange has in recent weeks converted to sell nothing but reproduced D’Angelico guitars, those slick, hollow-bodied beauties prominently displayed in the store’s Broad Street window.
“Les Paul had 90 long years here. (D’Angelico) only had 59 short years on this earth, and I’m going to keep his legacy alive,” Barulic said.
Barulic said the switch followed the realization that antiques weren’t selling as well as the guitars. So the antiques were trucked down to the store’s other outlet, on Broad Street in Shrewsbury, where they’re expected to fare better.
Though other brands of guitars are available at Monmouth Music and Summit Music on Monmouth Street and Jack’s Music Shoppe on Broad, Barulic is betting that Red Bank is a good fit for a specialty guitar shop like the Exchange.
“I was told Red Bank was the jazz capital of New Jersey,” she said. “I figured this is where we can survive.”
So far, the store is faring OK, she says. Customers both knowledgeable and unaware of the D’Angelico brand have come into the store interested in buying, Barulic said.
One of them, Phil Interdonati, of Middletown, actually added to the history lesson Barulic was in the process of giving redbankgreen on a recent visit. He’s the grandson of one of D’Angelico’s guitar toolmakers, also named Phil Interdonati.
“I didn’t even know this place was here,” he told Barulic. “This is pretty cool. I might have to buy one of these things.”
Even if you’re not buying, Barulic says anyone with an interest in D’Angelico guitars is more than welcome to come down and learn more, maybe even get involved in one of the store’s Friday night jam sessions. She calls them the store’s “gift” to Red Bank.
“If you play a D’Angelico, come in and play on a Friday night and just be around a lot of people who love to play guitar,” Barulic said. “The thing is to keep the legacy alive.”
For more information about the guitars or jam sessions, call 732.747.9797.