By RANDALL BOLLES
The ride from Nazareth to Lancaster looks like America’s backyard, with open farm lands, solar panel fields and makeshift religious signs.
The trip’s purpose is for Dave Shoudt to get a $25-dollar bass guitar in hopes of reselling it for a hefty profit.
“I sold the exact same type three months ago for $400,” Shoudt says. “I mean it is a long trip, sure, but I kind of have to go where the deals are.”
Shoudt opened his storefront, Six String Brokerage, in 2017 after four years of selling guitars online.
Before selling guitars, he had a successful mechanic business. Most of his adult life was spent fixing cars with a hobby of playing guitar. The hobby morphed into a profession after he lost interest in the garage, deciding at age 40 to follow a passion for music.
“I don’t know, man. People think it’s crazy to just shift gears at my age,” he says. “I don’t see the issue. People stay unhappy in professions all the time, I just decided I’m gonna go for it.”
Shoudt graduated from North Hunterdon High School in 1993, foregoing college and working odd-jobs until he became a Lehigh Valley resident in 2011, opening his garage.
He spends most of his time down at his shop, either cleaning up guitars he purchased online or scouring the Internet for deals that he can snatch up and flip quickly. The store itself has dark walls with blood-red accents and track lighting that illuminates the sea of guitars, bass guitars, drum kits and amplifiers.
“Sorry about the mess,” Shoudt says. “I just came across a ton of stuff and have not really had a chance to put everything away yet. It’s wild though. A guy from the Pagan’s MC had a storage unit filled to the brim with musical equipment that he wanted to sell. A lot of the stuff I had to hide in the back, out of view because there is Nazi stuff drawn on it.”
On the drive down to Lancaster, he pulls out his cigarettes and lights what must be his fifth so far. The van smells of cheap leather and smoke with empty energy drinks clinking around on the floor. The cool air is leaking in through the cracked window, sucking out smoke.
The lack of organization with his instruments and his van might drive most entrepreneurs insane, but Shoudt seems completely at ease, almost embracing the chaos.
“I remember my dad telling me that as long as I can sleep at night, knowing what I did with the day, then I am in pretty good shape and not doing anything wrong,” he says.
The store reopens when the trip is done and is followed promptly by one of his friends coming in to see the progress of the store and to try out some new equipment.
“It’s amazing. I have known Dave for a long time and he always has something going on that kind of bucks the conventional way of doing things,” says Bob Dagger, one of Shoudt’s friends. “The guy does what he needs to do to make it work, while always just doing whatever he wants to do that makes him happy.”
Shoudt’s happiness rests upon consistent business. He mentions that he is hoping people get their tax returns and come buy a guitar they have had their eye on. This summer he also hopes to participate in Nazareth’s annual “Martin on Main” event, where the notable guitar company hosts vendors in August right on Main Street in Nazareth.
“I have everything in here,” Shoudt says. “I have old classic guitars that are collector’s items and I have bottom-end stuff that I price for beginners.”
He shares his favorite guitar he has in the shop. It is a 1967 Yamaha hollow-body electric guitar. A pale, white piece that looks like it has seen the road more than once, proudly displaying battle scars of different players through the years.
“It is used and abused but it’s beautiful in my eyes,” Shoudt says. “It howls like a beast and can sing sweet when she wants to.”
The brick and mortar business model of selling product seems to be dying out with monsters like Amazon and eBay, but Shoudt is confident that if there is a personal touch and a desire for a type of market, he can survive in the modern age of commerce.
“I was successful with my garage, so why not guitars?” He says. “It’s not like I have anything to lose. I mean, it might do people some good to take chances every once in a while.”