Between them, John Oliva and Dan Puglisi have nearly 40 years of experience as guitar technicians. The two first met in 1998 while working at The Music Zoo, a high-end retail shop that used to be located on Northern Boulevard in Little Neck, where they both grew up.
Growing increasingly unfulfilled selling guitars rather than working on them, the pair struck out on their own. Since then, they have both toured the world as technicians; Oliva with Collective Soul, The Cult and Cyndi Lauper, Puglisi with Bayside and Alkaline Trio, to name a few.
“Ultimately, we felt like we didn't really want to be in the new music retail business,” says Oliva. “We were more interested in working on and fixing guitars.”
When the two friends weren’t touring, they would reconnect in Queens. In 2015 they started Mobile Guitars, a service that offers on-site guitar repair and maintenance across the Tristate area. It was immediately a hit with collectors and musicians with a numerous guitars. Rather than transport all of them to the shop, Oliva and Puglisi come to your home, studio or office and do the work for you.
“We were already servicing these rock bands, why not service some of these collectors in their homes?” says Oliva. “They trust us, we do good work.”
“We have resumes,” adds Puglisi.
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To make it worth their time, they require a three-guitar minimum, but they soon realized that requirement was also eliminating a lot of potential clients.
“We noticed we were turning away a lot of local business,” said Oliva. “We were running some local ads on CraigsList and stuff like that, and there were a lot of guys that had just one guitar and needed some small work done, so we figured we'd open a shop.”
Which they did last fall in a small storefront at 199-02 32nd Avenue, just off Francis Lewis Boulevard in Bayside. At a competitive price ($65 for a setup), amateur musicians can get the same level of service and expertise that professional musicians receive from Olivia and Puglisi.
SCHEDULE A SETUP WITH MOBILE GUITARS
“That's what sets us apart, we're not just another guitar repair shop,” explains Puglisi.
What also sets Oliva and Puglisi apart is the vast knowledge they have acquired over the years on the road working with all different kids of amps, guitars and effects pedals, and the nearly infinite combination of those three aspects to achieve a unique sound.
“There's a lot of great guitar techs out there that have been in business for a long time,” says Oliva. “I would say the main difference between us and them is that where our experience lies is in experimenting with different gear, how to achieve certain tones, and helping people get the best playability out of their gear.
“There might be a great guitar tech who has never left his one block, so he doesn't know the subtle difference of a bunch of different tremolo pedals,” he continues. “But if you want to get your guitar set up from guys who can also steer you in that direction, that's where we come in.
“It's just knowing the gear inside and out from years of doing it,” adds Puglisi.
One aspect of the retail business they both enjoyed was meeting new customers and helping them find the right guitar or other gear to best suit their playing style or desired sound, which they still get to do plenty of through Mobile Guitars.
And since they are on the road approximately half the year, for customers who request it, Oliva and Puglisi will keep their eyes open for unique guitars and other equipment. As Oliva says, “not everything is on the Internet.”
“We end up in guitar stores and pawn shops all over the country,” he continues. “We try to keep a short list, like somebody might say, ‘I'm looking for Lake Placid blue Jaguar, if you ever run into one call me.’”
Mobile Guitars is located at 199-02 32nd Avenue, Suite 4, in Bayside. To schedule an appointment, visit mobileguitars.com or call (347) 961-8324.