Jon Garon’s business is in East Naples, but it could be located almost anywhere. The longtime musician and retired ad man owns and operates My Favorite Guitars in Linwood Village, a group of shops and businesses in the industrial triangle between Davis Blvd. and the East Trail.
There is little doubt just what kind of guitars are Garon’s favorite. With few exceptions, My Favorite Guitars sells Martin guitars and only Martin guitars.
“We focus on the Martin customer,” said Garon. “It’s better to concentrate on one brand that’s pervasive, and have a depth of inventory. We’re one of the largest independent, or non-chain, dealers in the Martin system.”
If you are going to specialize in one line of guitars, Martin is a reasonable, even obvious choice. C.F. Martin & Co. represents the old established wing of the guitar field, the Cadillac and Mercedes of the industry. When it comes to steel string acoustic guitars, known as “flat tops,” Martin is the brand to which all others are compared.
“Most of our customers are over 40. They want a fine instrument,” said Jon. “If they’re buying a Martin, they’re wanting a Martin. These guitars aren’t for everyone, but Martins hold their value like no other guitar.”
Most of My Favorite Guitars’ customers, by a wide margin, never set foot in the showroom, either.
“We do 95 percent, or maybe 96 or 97 percent, over the phone and the web, and we ship the guitars,” said Garon. “We have a very liberal, penalty-free return policy, and the buyers trust the brand to begin with.” If the purchasers weren’t confident they would receive a guitar they loved, “nobody would buy from us” making a purchase as personal as a high-end musical instrument, said Garon.
Garon and his wife Sharon ship guitars all over the country and around the world, as far as Europe and Australia, using UPS as their carrier of choice and the same UPS-approved protective cartons as C.F. Martin & Co. With the bulk of sales happening out of the area, store hours are limited, and Garon requests prospective local buyers call ahead to make an appointment rather than just showing up.
“We’re out of town a lot, and we keep irregular hours,” he said. He probably wouldn’t maintain a retail showroom at all, but C.F. Martin requires they do in order to be an authorized Martin dealer. The manufacturer has no direct retail sales, so someone who wants to buy a factory-fresh Martin guitar is required to go through one of their dealers.
My Favorite Guitars sells mostly new instruments, both stock models from the factory and special “one off” guitars Garon has Martin build to his specifications. At any particular time, he has between 150 and 175 guitars in stock. He estimated his average sale at $2,500, but the range is wide.
“We can get you into a solid wood (not laminated) Martin for about $1,000.” Then there’s the high-end.
“Martin built 50 guitars they called the D-100. The retail price was $100,000. We sold half a dozen of those, but there are no more,” Garon said. “Last year they made 11 guitars, the OM-45 Authentic 1930 model — Roy Rogers owned one of the original ones — and we have one of those.”
That guitar also has a $100,000 price tag. But some of the most expensive instruments, Garon added, are not kept at the store, but off-site in a secure vault.
Jon Garon is a highly accomplished guitarist himself, with blazing fingerpicking speed, and still “plays out” regularly, including one recent concert at the Norris Center in Cambier Park. There, he shared the stage with longtime picking partner Jack Lawrence, who played with Doc Watson for 30 years. Another musical collaborator, Clay Hess, plays with members of Alison Krause’s band, and a third, Richard Smith, backs up renowned virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel.
And Garon’s own favorite guitar? For shows, he plays a 1959 Martin D-18, although he also owns a custom guitar by Minnesota luthier Lloyd LaPlant, and is having another one built.
Garon’s guitar sales grew out of his love of guitars, and “kind of took over” — he had never been in any kind of retail business. He and Sharon relocated from their native Minnesota, and have operated My Favorite Guitars for almost 15 years, including 11 years at their current location at 2377 Linwood Avenue, #204, in East Naples.
While the guitars are important, the real key to success, said Garon, is customer service. “Everyone who walks out of here is an ambassador, one way or the other. We want you to have the guitar you want.”
For more information on My Favorite Guitars, call the shop at 239-530-7425, or go online to myfavoriteguitars.com.