By Aaron Quigly
Mark's Guitar Shop and Cole's Guitars have made the Garland district a one-stop-shop for guitar enthusiasts, from beginner to expert.
Visitors to the street range from young students taking their first lesson, to traveling musicians in need of a quick repair, said Nate Corning, Mark's Guitar Shop owner.
Competition between Mark's and Cole's is almost non-existent.
"The two shops could not be any more different," said Eban Cole, owner of the store that bears his name.
Mark's neon signs and bright interior match the store's inventory of flashy, high-gloss guitars and construction-orange amplifiers. Cole's paint-chipped door, wrought-iron window coverings, and earth-tone paint match the vintage wood guitars and faded browns and blacks of the antique amplifiers lining a narrow path to the counter.
"I let my inventory select my clientele," Cole said. "If I don't have something, I refer them up the street to Nate."
Cole Music Company focuses on antique and rare guitars, such as the two coveted Fender Telecasters hanging behind the counter. Mark's Guitar Shop sells a wide range of new and used guitars, including a guitar resembling a shattered mirror. The inventories differ down to the brand of guitar strings each shop supplies.
Corning took ownership of Mark's Guitars two years ago when Mark Morse died. He kept the name to honor Mark's vision for creating a place where guitar experts could help the local guitar community.
Cole's has joined Mark's vision.
"The guys at Mark's are just like me," Cole said. "They know guitars, and they love what they do."
Visiting bands to the Spokane area seek out the expertise in the Garland District. Cole's has lent-out guitars to famous performers, including guitarists for Kid Rock and Switchfoot. Mark's has sold guitars and accessories to a variety of touring bands, including Joe Bonamassa. Guitarist Myles Kennedy even memorialized Mark's late owner Morse by dedicating the album Blackbird to him.
Nestled between Mark's and Cole's is Violin Works. Owner James Kytonen believes foot-traffic increases as customers stop on their way to the two guitar shops.
"There are huge advantages for our shops being close together," Kytonen said. "We borrow and lend tools with each other and share ideas, which lead to better customer experiences all around."
Garland Street is quickly filling up with top-of-the-industry experts. Violin Works saves many of their customers a trip to Seattle, the site of the next closest violin expert.
"The Garland District is an interesting sense of community; all we are lacking is a brass and woodwind shop," Kytonen said.