There are a number of stores in the San Francisco Bay Area where you can buy guitars, basses, drums, keyboards, PA systems, DJ, and other musical equipment. A good chunk of these stores are 50% music lesson venues to receive music lessons. The other set of stores usually concentrate on one type of item. I.e. We only sell pianos. I’ve tried to patron small shops but I really find it hard to get a good deal and the selection of gear is limited. That’s why I stick with Guitar Center for most of my music equipment purchases.
In the San Francisco Bay Area we have 5 Guitar Center stores. They are in Concord, El Cerrito, Gilroy (yes, I’m counting Gilroy), San Francisco, and San Jose. Each Guitar Center store is individually owned. As a musician, I’ve visited each of these stores and each of them has their good points and sad points. They all have a different look and feel.
I’ve ranked each of the stores in this order (starting off with the best): El Cerrito, San Jose, San Francisco, Concord, and Gilroy.
The following is the criteria I used to judge each of the sites: Friendliness, helpfulness, product knowledge, new equipment, used equipment, and department size. I ranked each of them from 0-10 with 10 being the best score possible.
This is what I used to define my criteria:
Friendliness – What happens when I walk into a store? Do they welcome me into the store? Are the associates easy to talk with?
Helpfulness – When I walk to a specific department, is there someone to help me out? Do they offer me a guitar pick or set of drum sticks? Do they bother to ask about my musical skill?
Product Knowledge – Do they know what they are talking about? Can they explain it to me in a way that I understand?
New Equipment – Does the store have a good set of new equipment?
Used Equipment – We’re all looking out for a great deal, right?
Department Size – Does the store seem to be guitar heavy? DJ heavy? Drum heavy? I ranked these by making sure that (1) there are clear individual departments and (2) the departments seemed equally staffed and had a similar size. I also looked at layout for this section.
Here are some of my notes from each of the stores:
El Cerrito has a great friendly staff that is willing to help you out with anything. The store is well organized and is easy to walk through. You don’t get pressured into buying.
Concord feels cozy. While they can use more square footage, they do really well with what they have. The staff is friendly and helpful.
Gilroy is small. The staff say hello but don’t offer much more assistance. It’s good place to hang when your family wants to go to the outlets.
San Francisco has a great selection of new gear and used gear. Too bad no one really helped me but they helped the rocker looking dude who looked like money.
San Jose is well balanced. I spent more time in there for no reason other than it was easy to walk through. I didn’t see much of a selection of used gear. The Keyboard and ProAudio departments are awesome.
Hope you find what you’re looking for. I need to visit the Modesto store when I get a chance. Oh, I’ve also been to the Bakersfield, Fresno, Sherman Oaks, and Las Vegas stores. I’ll review those at some other point.
1280 Willow Pass Rd., Ste. A
Concord, California 94520
Mon-Thur: 11-9 | Fri: 10-9 | Sat: 10-7 | Sun: 12-7
10300 San Pablo Ave.
El Cerrito, California 94530
Mon-Fri: 11-9 | Sat: 10-7 | Sun: 11-6
6910 Chestnut Street
Gilroy, California 95020
Mon-Thur: 12-7 | Fri: 11-7 | Sat: 11-7 | Sun: 11-6
1645 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, California 94109
Mon-Fri: 10-9 | Sat: 10-7 | Sun: 11-7
3677 Stevens Creek Blvd.
Santa Clara, California 95051
Mon-Thur: 11-9 | Fri: 10-9 | Sat: 10-7 | Sun: 11-7