British Columbia·Still Standing

Rufus Guitar Shop shows there's a place for young Vancouver entrepreneurs

The owner of Rufus Guitar Shop wants to offer himself up as an example of a young person who has decided to stay in Vancouver and run a business.

Blaine McNamee, 37, took over the independent instrument shop in 2014

Blaine McNamee is the owner of independent music shop, Rufus Guitar Shop, in Vancouver, B.C. (Mitchell Parsons)

At a time when young Vancouverites are penning "Dear Vancouver" letters as they leave the city, one young businessman is offering himself as an example of someone who is choosing to stay and make a go of it. 

Blaine McNamee, 37, has been running Rufus Guitar Shop since 2014. He took over from previous owners Chuck and Jenny Baker, who started the independent music shop on the west side of Vancouver back in 1984. 

McNamee, who worked in the shop for eight years prior to taking over, says he dreamed of opening a guitar store since his youth.

"When I was a teenager, you know, I liked playing music. I played in bands and kind of my backup plan if I didn't become a rock star was to open a guitar shop," he told CBC's Stephen Quinn on the The Early Edition. 

Listen to the full interview here:

Blaine McNamee has been running Rufus Guitar Shop since 2014, taking over from the original owners of the popular music shop. 7:08

Since then, the Edmonton-native has continued the Rufus Guitar Shop tradition of prioritizing repairs and craftsmanship, bringing in a lot of vintage, unique instruments, and continuing the practice of consigning rare guitars from the store's clientale.

Plus it's a store where you're encouraged to play with the merchandise.

"Our whole thing, and what sets us apart from other shops, is we invite that. We want you to come and we want you to play guitars," he said.

Expanding the business

This month, McNamee opened a new location on Commercial Drive, in the old Wonderbucks location, a former housewares store.

He says a major expansion such as this isn't daunting, but adds he hasn't had enough time to process it all. 

"I'm just in work mode right now. I want to get it rolling. I want to get it started," McNamee said. 

And as for other young entrepreneurs interested in starting their own business, McNamee's advice is to go work in that industry. 

"Work for ... people that will teach you, and work for a business that will let you get involved so you understand all aspects."

Still Standing is a series about the small businesses in the Lower Mainland that have managed to stay open despite the challenges. Listen every second Tuesday on CBC Radio The Early Edition.

If you have a suggestion for a store or business in the Lower Mainland that's been around for awhile and provides a specialized service, or has an unusual survival story, please email earlyed@cbc.ca

With files from Jennifer Chen

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