If the true measure of success is doing what you love and surrounding yourself with those you care about, Bob Duffy has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
Located on Marco Island, his music store, Show Your Axe, is a shrine to all things guitar-related. Here, Duffy immerses himself in acoustic, electric, classical and hollow-body guitars, along with strings, tuners, amps, cords, pedals and straps, as well as other tools of the trade.
When he’s not selling guitars, he plays them at a number of venues throughout the area, as one-third of the Mullet Brothers. This could account for the store’s unusual hours–opening at 1 p.m. on the days that it does open, although the posted hours are 1 to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Duffy originally launched his business as a cabinet maker, specializing in custom display cases for guitarists to showcase their “axes,” a longtime slang term for guitar–and hence the store’s name, Show Your Axe.
“The idea was to encourage people to pull their guitars out of the closet or from under the bed and display them for people to see,” he explains. “When I expanded the business to a music store, I just kind of stuck with the name.”
Of course, it’s not all guitars. Show Your Axe can also fill your need for balalaikas, mandolins, bouzoukis, basses, banjos, dulcimers, ukuleles and autoharps–essentially, any instrument with strings and frets. There’s even a stray electronic keyboard in stock.
“Something for everybody,” is how Duffy describes his inventory.
“I can sell you this strawberry guitar for $35,” he says, “or a stunning custom-inlaid burlwood and mother of pearl Telecaster for $1,200, along with the amp to make it wail.”
His inventory even includes a Spanish guitar from the 1800s, estimated by Sotheby’s to be worth at least $5,000.
In-between, dozens of acoustic and electric models offer a tempting variety of choices for players who are searching for something out of the ordinary. And, says Duffy, another 40 or so guitars are in reserve, because he doesn’t have room to display them all.
“I don’t put much markup on them,” he says of his guitar sales. “If I get a good price, someone will get a good price from me.”
In addition to buying and selling guitars, Duffy offers a full range of repair and customizing services for guitar owners. One recent afternoon, he was setting up an Eric Clapton signature model Martin acoustic guitar. The sunburst-finished, $3,000-5,000 instrument is a thing of beauty, but according to Duffy, it was virtually unplayable when it came in.
Most of the store’s inventory is pre-owned, so being able to do his own repairs is useful for his own guitars, as well as a source of income from doing repair work on those brought in by customers.
“I do re-fretting, electronics, refinishing, restoring. It’s hard to find people to do the specialty work,” he says.
Custom woodworking comes naturally to Duffy. For years, cabinets were his bread and butter, and working with and selling guitars was something he did on the side. The current downturn in construction work played a part in his decision to get back into the music field as a full-fledged business venture.
Duffy played drums before electing to concentrate on the guitar and built a career in retailing, construction and international development before returning to his first love full-time.
“I was working for the Institute for Cultural Affairs, in Brazil,” he recalls, “when I decided I wanted to get back into it.”
As part of his mark in the music world, Duffy has built a number of specialty guitars for famous musicians. The best-known, “Roxanne,” was purchased by Andy Summers, of the Police. Crafted in the shape of a female nude, it was featured in Playboy magazine.
Originally working in Chicago, he moved, first to Fort Lauderdale and then, 17 years ago, across the state to Marco Island. After operating at the Shops of Old Marco and Marek’s restaurant, he opened the current Show Your Axe location on Bald Eagle Drive last October.
“How did you find us?” is the first question he asks his walk-in customers, given the store’s location off the beaten path of most Marco retailers. “That’s our dilemma.”
Bob’s wife, Kathy, owns an antique store behind the Show Your Axe guitar showroom, giving ladies something to check out while the guys take in all the guitar options.
Duffy also sells guitars and musical equipment on eBay, and recently started another related venture–renting guitars to visitors.
“I get calls from the Marriott,” he explains. “People don’t want to entrust their guitars to the airlines, but want to be able to play when they’re down here.”
Buying, selling, renting, repairing or performing on stage; if it involves guitars, Duffy makes it part of his world.