Known as “The Best Little Guitar Store in New York City,” Rivington has a gallery that is filled with rows and rows of vintage and new guitars. There are over one hundred in stock at all times – Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, Martin, Rickenbacker, Silvertone, Harmony and more. Rivington also buys, sells, trades and repairs vintage guitars, keyboards and other instruments. Customers range from hobbyists to celebrities (including Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, and Mumford & Sons).
The store first opened in 1998 on Rivington Street, hence the name. During one visit, I spoke to the owner, Howie Statland, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1992. He is a true East Villager: “I don’t really go above 14th Street,” he told me, grinning. Howie is one of the founding members of Thin Lizard Dawn, a rock band that was signed to RCA records from 1995-2000. During that time, he bought and sold guitars while playing in the band. Music is in his blood: his mom was a concert pianist and he grew up playing the cello and piano before quickly turning to rock music.
Around the time when Thin Lizard Dawn was starting to break up, Howie found out that his friend, Tom Nastasi, was planning on closing his guitar shop, Rivington Guitars. Howie swept in and took over, eventually moving the store to 4th Street (though he admitted he still misses Rivington Street).
Though Howie offers a lot of services at Rivington Guitars, vintage guitar sales are his specialty. He is one of only twenty-five guitar dealers in the United States who determine the values in the Vintage Guitar Price Guide. He travels all over the country to find the guitars and knows people in the guitar world on both coasts and everywhere in between. He often gets to visit the houses of the owners who wish to sell their cherished instruments. While visiting the store, I witnessed him handle a guitar from a customer hoping to sell. Though Howie ended up turning the man away, the extreme care and skill with which he examined the instrument was evident. I asked Howie what guitar he plays. He answered that though he started on a Les Paul, he now swears by the 62 Jazzmaster. He still plays at different venues like Joe’s Pub and the Bowery Ballroom, but confessed, “I’m not performing as much as I’d like to be.”
Howie had a lot of good things to say about his staff. He praised Neal Winkowski, a very experienced guitar repairman. “He does repairs only a luthier could do.” He also complimented the guys from New York University (NYU) who teach guitar classes in the store. Despite wishing for more time as a performer, it is clear Howie loves his job. “I like the positivity of this business,” he said and went on to elaborate on the joy of selling the perfect guitar to someone. “I love providing a service to people who genuinely love music.”