After a costly renovation, a landmark of Manhattan that was once home to Patti Smith and Bob Dylan is drawing a different crowd. Dan Courtenay, the proprietor of Chelsea Guitars, is fine with that.
Ever since the Chelsea Hotel emerged from a long and costly renovation to become one of Manhattan’s trendiest playgrounds, the old hole-in-the-wall guitar shop on the ground floor has become an unlikely link to the building’s fabled bohemian past.
Opened in the late 1980s, Chelsea Guitars has sold picks and strings to Patti Smith and Dee Dee Ramone. It started out as one of the hotel’s many street-level mom-and-pop shops. Now it’s the last one standing, a cluttered den of rare and vintage guitars that seems out of step with its chic surroundings. Hotel guests and out-of-towners who stumble into it, sometimes with one of the Lobby Bar’s signature $28 martinis swirling around in their bellies, are smitten by its scruffiness.
A mannequin of Marilyn Monroe strumming a ukulele sits outside the shop’s entrance on West 23rd Street. The narrow interior has cracked marble floors, a slow-spinning ceiling fan and brick walls lined with pictures of Albert King, Elmore James and other blues greats.
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