When retired veterinarian Jim Palenscar opened the Steel Guitars of North County store 15 years ago, he knew his storefront was destined to be more about personal gratification than a business slam-dunk.
Steamers, at the Coyote Bar and Grill, 6/8/14
“It’s such a small market. There are at least 1000 guitarists for every steel-guitar player. When I opened I could truthfully say I knew all six steel-guitar players within a hundred miles.”
“The only other store in Southern California was Blackie Taylor’s in Riverside. He was the one who gave me lessons in Hawaiian Gardens in the ’70s. But he’s not doing much anymore. The other big store was Scotty’s in St Louis. When he went out business I bought out his inventory.”
- Sunday, November 26, 2017, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Coyote Bar & Grill,
300 Carlsbad Village Drive,
Because he’s survived in business, “Many of my heroes are now my customers.” Last week Lucky Oceans, one of the founding members of Asleep at the Wheel who now lives in Australia, stopped in to his shop in an Oceanside strip mall. Nils Lofgren (Bruce Springsteen), Dean Parks (Steely Dan, Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder), Pete Anderson (Dwight Yoakam), Greg Leisz (Jackson Browne, the Eagles), and Bruce Bouton (Garth Brooks) have all dropped by his Mission Avenue store located between a donut shop and a martial arts studio.
“There are so few people who do this.”
Palenscar has taught himself how to repair lap and pedal-steel guitars, instruments that give the emotional twang to many country songs.
He also gives lessons to students who are patient enough to learn the instrument.
“It can make you cry either because it’s so beautiful or because you can get so frustrated trying to learn it. Especially nowadays with kids getting bored so easily.”
He says a basic model starts at $1200.
“I have one that’s worth $7500 at my house…. You can get a basic Formica model or one that has a mother of pearl or abalone inlay. The problem with those is if you ding 'em, they end up looking like crap.”
Three years ago Palenscar opened a small manufacturing company on Oceanside Boulevard to house Goodrich Volume Pedals which he took over.
“It was owned by a family. After 50 years they wanted to retire.” He says the pedals are low-tech gizmos that are simpler than more complex models made by market leader Ernie Ball Guitars. “I moved the whole company from Georgia in a 15-foot Penske truck.”