A recent business trip took me to the east coast. As is my practice, I did a quick search for local guitar shops. When Dream Guitars came up I was knocked out by the selection and inventory on hand. Completely. Knocked. Out. These are world-class, one-of-kind instruments. Their website is robust: beautiful photos and great sounding audio samples of each guitar. And while most are out of my price range, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see so many beautifully hand-crafted works of art in one place.
I made an appointment to visit Paul Heumiller, owner of Dream Guitars, in Weaverville, NC, on a Friday afternoon.
Paul’s shop sits on a hill near the end of a long winding rural lane, just outside of Ashville, North Carolina. There was snow on the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. As my wife and I pulled into the driveway the excitement (well, my excitement) was palpable. Paul greeted us at the door and ushered us into his shop. Passing through a small room with classical and archtop guitars, we stepped into a room full of the high-end, one-of-a-kind, handmade instruments. The handmade guitars from world-class luthiers — displayed by size — that I’d admired on their website. And there we stood among them …
Paul was warm and friendly. He spent a few minutes giving us an overview of his inventory. Obviously, he knew each guitar well. He began the process by asking about the type music I played and what kind of sound I liked. Relying on his vast knowledge and experience, he assists customers by focusing the search to narrow the choices. Next he thoughtfully, but without hesitation, selected 3 guitars and arranged them on stands in semi-circle in front of me. I sat down and he handed me a guitar to sample. Suddenly I couldn’t remember any of the songs or riffs I know, so I feebly plucked at the strings. Unfazed, he made the distinctions between each of the guitars and answered my questions. He told me to play as long as I wanted and let me know that after I sampled these guitars, he had a few more that he thought I might like to try. Then he excused himself to give me some privacy.
What a fantastic experience! Dream Guitars is by far the most overwhelming guitar shop I’ve ever seen — including online stores. Once I discovered it, I knew it would be an amazing place and I was not disappointed. It was truly a thrill to hold these extraordinary guitars – several he showed me were absolutely museum worthy. The inlays, craftsmanship, design, rarity of woods – truly masterpieces. And the sounds — strong, eloquent voices!
So what kind of guitar does Paul play? Of course he already has an amazing Somagyi guitar, with the neck custom carved to fit his hand … really, what else could a musician want? He has some of the finest imaginable instruments by the best luthiers in the world available to play every evening … With great pride Paul told me about the guitar made for him by luthier and musician Jordan McConnell in this video interview.
Paul played a bit for us so we could hear the beautiful sound. It was a simple song played well. A gentle little fingerstyle tune, played with sincerity and concentration, without self-conscious thought.
At the end of the interview he handed is guitar to me and said “Here, you try it.” Wow!
We said our goodbyes and as we drove away, I was lost in thought. Did this visit help me in my search for my dream guitar? Yes and no. After hearing Paul describe his own quest for the guitar features that advance the sound and style of music he plays, I think I’m on the right track in the approach to my search. My own desires include: a rosewood body for the rich sound and harmonics, a wider ebony fretboard for ease of playing fingerstyle, a smaller body to comfortably fit my reach … The other thing that Paul helped me to realize is that a custom, luthier made instrument is a viable possibility for me. Custom guitar, especially pre-owned models, start around my target price and I must say that the Dave Taylor OM mahogany guitar that Paul showed me sounded great and was the prettiest mahogany wood I’ve seen.
However, instead of narrowing my search, the field of options may have just expanded dramatically!
Undoubtedly, this was an outstanding experience. I keep thinking of the melody Paul played on his McConnell guitar. The notes just ring out of that guitar – so smooth and long. Even though it was all of 20 seconds, it was such a memorable part of the visit. Ah.
Thank you Paul for your hospitality at Dream Guitars!
Time for me to practice.