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A Scruffy Guitar Shop Survives the Chelsea Hotel’s Chic Makeover

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Because the couple, giddy from their contact high with a crustier Latest York, prepared to depart, Mr. Courtenay scribbled his number on a card and handed it to them.

“If you happen to wander off, or have any problems taking the subway,” he said, “call us.”

If Chelsea Guitars has accrued cultural significance as an unkempt holdout within the newly pristine hotel, then Mr. Courtenay is its resident bard, desirous to pass on the constructing’s mythology to anyone who enters his store, whether or not they buy a $6,000 1964 Epiphone Riviera or the opposite worship-worthy rare guitars on the partitions. If you happen to get him going, he’ll tell tales about what he says he has seen running the shop for greater than three many years.

Joan Baez once stopped by and gave him her Chinese takeout leftovers for lunch, he said. When the band Oasis was on the town, Noel Gallagher got here in and asked to see a rare Gibson acoustic stored away behind the shop. Mr. Courtenay was in a grumpy mood that day, so he told Mr. Gallagher to go fetch him a cup of coffee while he retrieved it.

During Patti Smith’s transient residence within the hotel within the mid-Nineteen Nineties, her teenage son, Jackson, used to hand around in the shop playing Green Day riffs. And there was the time Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top dropped in before heading to El Quijote, where a confrontation ensued when the restaurant asked him to take off his signature tasseled cap.

“They told him, ‘You’ve got to take off the hat,’” Mr. Courtenay recalled. “Billy said, ‘I don’t take this hat off after I’m sleeping.’”

There was also the guitar busker named Vlad, who seemingly knew only a number of chords and sang about his woes in a thick Eastern European accent at a close-by subway station, becoming often known as the Polish Bluesman of Chelsea. There was also the mysterious woman who lived within the hotel, and who was rumored to come back from wealth, whom Mr. Courtenay observed for years as she hailed invisible cabs outside the constructing. And there was the shop’s resident cat, a Russian blue named Boris.

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