When it comes to rock and roll, the better the guitar you have, the better you can rock out. And when it comes to getting your hands on the best possible guitar, one name comes to the mind of any serious musician: The Music Zoo of Roslyn, one of the premiere music stores going today.
Simply put, if you’re a musician looking for a unique and high-quality guitar and The Music Zoo doesn’t have it, it doesn’t exist, says owner Tommy Colletti.
“The decisions we make here don’t always surround making a profit or good business sense,” he said. “It’s always geared towards the guitar, towards what’s going to get a better guitar in here, what’s going to help the customer more.”
Born and raised in Middle Village, Queens, and now calling Port Washington home, Colletti is a life-long fan of rock and roll; however, you wouldn’t know it by the results of his first brush with music when he was but five years old.
“I was forced to take piano lessons which I eventually managed to squeak my way out of…baseball was way more important at the time,” he said. “However, music came back when I was 11 or 12…hearing groups like Led Zeppelin, KISS, Van Halen made me what to play the guitar. I wanted to play the drums first, but my mother wouldn’t allow them in the house, so we went with choice B, which turned out to be my career…the guitar.”
However, Colletti’s interest in the guitar transcended mere music; he was also fascinated with the instrument itself, conducting research and taking frequent trips to Manhattan’s famed 48th Street, what at the time was known as “Music Row.”
“I’ve never seen so many guitars in one place in my entire life,” he said. “Plus, it was a place that was usually filled with rock starts just walking up and down the street…you didn’t know who you were going to see. I tried to go to 48th Street as much as I could as kid. It was astonishing to me.”
As early as his teens, Colletti began teaching guitar lessons privately; soon, his clientele swelled to as many as 60 to 90 students a week, depending on the time of year. But he soon noticed that those students not only picked his brain for guitar techniques; they also wanted to know where to get the best guitars.
“People would come to me and tell me that they wanted to buy their first guitar, their second guitar, their first big purchase of a Les Paul or a Stratocaster…they wanted my help so they didn’t buy the wrong thing,” he said. “Plus, I was teaching so much at the time and in so many music stores, I was seeing and using so many different guitars that opening my own place just seemed like a natural progression…there was no monetary gain for me back then, it was just a way to help people find stuff.”
In 1994, Colletti opened The Music Zoo on in Little Neck, Queens; quickly, the location’s storage space proved to be woefully inadequate for the vast inventory that he soon acquired.
“We had run out of room for the guitars,” he said. “We had filled the store we were occupying, we had guitars in the basements of the real estate and kabab house establishments adjacent to us, we were renting an apartment nearby and we filled that…we had guitars in the bathroom, the closets, and the living room. It just got to the point where it didn’t make sense anymore.”
After having moved from Queens to Port Washington, Colletti started a daily commute to Queens to run his business until the space situation became critical; thus, considering the fact that internet sales had started taking up the bulk of his business anyway, he finally decided to transplant The Music Zoo a little closer to home by moving it to 55 Lumber Road in Roslyn in June of 2011.
“We moved in and quickly grew out of this space…we’re to the brim already with guitars,” Colletti laughed. “We expected it, but we loved the building so much it didn’t matter. We’re on the harbor in Roslyn Harbor…every day at work I get to look out over the water and see swans. It’s a quality of life thing.”
Part of The Music Zoo’s lofty reputation in the music business comes from the fact that Colletti has sold guitars to some of rock’s biggest names- Joe Walsh of The Eagles, Peter Frampton, Joe Satriani, and Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes are just a few of the stars that the store counts among its many high-profile customers.
When you’re a pro rocker, having a quality guitar is what sets you apart from the rest of the pack; what makes The Music Zoo distinctive in a crowded market is the fact that they are very hands on what the stock they keep and cater to serious musicians, Colletti said.
“Aside from customer service, we specialize in guitars that pros and rock stars want to play, not run-of-the-mill stuff,” he said. “We do a lot of our own exclusive runs where we hand-pick the wood…some of it is taste, and some of it is the feel; a lot of pros like lighter wood guitars, and some like heavier ones. So, our guitars become very specialized…if you want something a little better than the norm, that’s why you shop here.”
Despite having given up teaching guitar years ago, Colletti is still doing his part to promote and spread the message of rock music, and invites anyone interested in finding out more about the guitar to take the trip to Roslyn and visit his legendary store.
“All these different rock stars are coming here, and this is a destination for players all over the world, and it’s basically in everyone’s backyard,” he said. “It’s certainly worth paying a visit to for people, and once they’re here, I’m sure that they’ll be lifelong friends and customers.”
To find out more about The Music Zoo, visit www.themusiczoo.com.