person playing a brown guitar

As residents of this tiny island, we all eventually come to realize we can’t always get what we want. Or even, sometimes, what we need — at least not without waiting a few days for an online delivery.

But for the past few years, Key West musicians have had the luxury of two music stores in town – one, The Grateful Guitar, right off Duval, and the other, Island Guitar, in New Town’s Key Plaza. The stores each had a knack for stocking what the other didn’t, so between the two, we had options, and more importantly, the opportunity to try before we’d buy, which is invaluable when buying and selling musical instruments and gear. 

Following the demise of that old favorite, Radio Shack, the two music stores served us well as musicians. We had a good chance of finding an oddball cable, that “I haven’t seen one of these in years” adapter, or a bit of expert “how can I keep this guitar alive?” advice.

Sadly, we’ve recently learned that The Grateful Guitar will be closing at the end of the month. As anyone in the industry knows, Kim Walsh invested so much of herself in that store and in Key West’s local music scene. Thank you, Kim.

And while we are indeed fortunate to have another music store in town, The Grateful Guitar’s impending closure raises the important issue of locally owned — and locally supported — businesses. As residents, do we understand the impact of our spending? Countless local businesses depend almost exclusively on local customers — music stores, hardware stores, toy stores, air-conditioner parts suppliers, the list goes on. These places provide items we need to live and work here, so our choices matter when it comes to shopping. 

I’m certainly not saying this is the reason for the demise of The Grateful Guitar, but perhaps the closing is a reflection of how we spend our money. Or of how we could spend our money. 

 As a small community with a lot of visitors we do have some power economically.  We can choose to spend our money locally when possible. Of course, everyone’s financial situation is different. Some people need the discounted price that online ordering can offer. But some of us have a little wiggle room, and spending a few extra dollars locally on something I could have gotten online for less makes little difference to me, but can make a huge difference to a local business. And in a world where it feels like we can do little to change things, a little difference is what I can do.

Ray West
Ray West, professional musician, singer, actor, and Executive Director of the Key West Music Awards, is known to sacrifice his comfort for that of his cat.