You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 5:12 p.m.

Herb David Guitar Studio closing after 50 years in downtown Ann Arbor

By Lizzy Alfs


After 50 years, the Herb David Guitar Studio in downtown Ann Arbor is closing.

Joseph Tobianski | file photo

Herb David Guitar Studio on East Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor will close just days shy of its 51st birthday, Andrea David, Herb's wife, said on Tuesday.

The store at 302 E. Liberty St., which has sold and repaired a wide range of string instruments for over half a century, will close on March 31.

"Herb is retiring," Andrea told on Tuesday evening.

David first opened the studio in 1962 in the basement of Bob Marshall’s book store on State Street. The business moved to its location in a house on the corner of East Liberty Street and South Fifth Avenue in 1982.


Herb David owns the building at 302 E. Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor.

Joseph Tobianski |

Over the years, the studio built a national reputation as it served as a local gathering place for music lovers. David and his staff taught musicians of all ages and skill levels, and also sold and repaired instruments. He also made an effort to give back to the community by sponsoring free concerts and other events. Several employees have worked at the studio for more than a decade.

David told in December 2012 that the closure of Fifth Avenue during the construction of the underground parking garage led to a 50-percent drop in sales, although lessons and repair business held steady. At that time, he said, the business returned “little-by-little” as traffic on the street was restored.

Andrea David said there will be a large sale before the studio closes at the end of March. Because Herb owns the downtown building, Andrea said they are considering leasing the space, but will announce official plans in coming weeks.

Andrea added that the couple would thank their customers. reporter Ben Freed contributed to this report.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at


Alan Haber

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 10:29 p.m.

herb is a beautiful man. a big heart, a fellow craftsman who spreads music, provides service and cares about the community, what could be better. as near as i could tell he was disrespected and ill treated by the powers that be, and the process that is, and may well have gotten tired of dealing with them and it. maybe the dda could help seed and spark a start-up of young musicians to move the studio music and culture service into a second half century on its cherished corner of liberty and fifth. it would be nice if the workers could take over the store, or something like it could be its successor, but there is no replacing herb david, 50 years plus of integrity in business gives a man a sage perspective. i hope herb will be more about town, and people will listen to what he has to say.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 5:57 p.m.

Back in the early nineties, when the Neo-Nazis would make their annual April pilgrimage to Ann Arbor, they assembled to spew their hate at the Federal Building/Post Office parking lot. Someone opened a window at Herb David, placed amp on the windowsill and did an electric solo of "The Mickey Mouse Club". Brilliant bit of non-violent humiliation. The little Hitlers were speechless.

Hal Breidenbach

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

I first met Davis when the shop was upstairs from Marshall's, and always made a point of visiting the store whenever I was back in AA. He was the first person I though of when my Shami Sen needed repair, and although it wasn't his usual kind of work, he did a great job on it. Like many of those commenting, I'll miss Herb and his store.

Jeff Travilla

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 5:18 p.m.

I am pretty much sobbing uncontrollably.

Kody Klein

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 5:05 p.m.

I've always loved going to the store and killing time in the practice room. It's a fun way to pass the time and Herb has always had a unique stock of really nice guitars, some models that I'd never seen or played before. The employees were always really cool and would say nice things about different influences they heard in my playing or how they dug that I kept rhythm with a steady "pirate stomp." We'd debate about whether accordion can be hip in contemporary music (I argued that it can be and very much is--see Tom Waits, Beirut, etc.). In general, it's been a wonderfully supportive environment for musicians. Very sad to hear that it's closing.

Cole Bertsos

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 5:07 p.m.

Kody- I agree! The staff is so helpful. Even though they specialize in guitars I went in there with a ton of questions about my cello and they were happy to help!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.

This is sad news...the originality of Ann Arbor is slipping away in many areas.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:21 p.m.

Oh no, I took my first guitar lessons at Herb's from Drew Howard. I heard Herb telling stories of drinking snake blood while in the Himalayas, or somewhere. I guess I won't be getting those Herb David strings and picks for Christmas anymore. Sad day indeed.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:19 p.m.

A major loss for A2?? Never want to see a long time business close but the man wants to retire.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

Why wouldn't Herb sell the shop rather than close the shop?

mike gatti

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

That is a true bummer man. John Lennon shopped there. I love that place.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

It appears that I am in the minority, but based on how badly he (Herb himself) botched some basic repairs on my '78 Les Paul Artisan, IMHO it was time for this to happen. Not sure how someone with that much experience installs tuning pegs backwards and drills extra holes in the headstock, but that's what happened. And...I only had to wait 3 months to get it back.

Rod Johnson

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 10:26 p.m.

Oh dear, and Herb is such a sensitive soul too.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

you also are in the minority(hopefully) that apparently enjoys giving some a kick in the rear as he heads out the door.......


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

Herb, thank you so much for your years of service and dedication! enjoy your retirement. (BTW, can I buy the chair that John Lennon sat in?)

Edward Green

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

Hopefully a guitar shop with better selection, friendlier staff will replace this location.

Rod Johnson

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 10:25 p.m.

I love the way we get voted down for the mildest of dissents from the lovefest here. I don't mean HDG was awful, but there were some friendliness issues there for sure. There aren't a lot of great places in town. The guys at Music-Go-Round are great, and it's a fine place to buy strings and get basic work done. There are a couple world-class luthiers in town, David Collins and Tom Pellerito, if you need repairs. But if you want serious guitar stores, Elderly's in EL and Motor City Guitars in Waterford are my favorites. Unfortunately they're a drive. I'm sure there are closer places that I'm just not thinking of.

Edward Green

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 6:39 p.m.

Where's your favorite place? I'm not a guitar center type of guy, either, but there were a lot of negative assumptions about customer's damaging guitars there.

Rod Johnson

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

This is the kind of turd-in-the-punchbowl comment nobody likes, but there is some truth to it. The store could be a little intimidating and unfriendly at times, and Herb could be kind of crusty. It's still an institution, but it's never been my favorite place.

Dog Guy

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

Hah! I told you back then that guitars were just a short-lived fad.

Seasoned Cit

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

Is the Business closing due to lack of income.....or the owner has finally decided that he wants to retire ? if the latter...then the big hole complainers have nothing to complain about.

Tom Smith

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

This is a huge loss to the downtown area. Herb David's is practically the perfect little music store. I haven't even been down there for years, but when I was learning to play guitar in the late 80s they were THE place to go for... well, for everything: strings, songbooks, support, cool new toys. Many thanks to Herb and Andrea and their excellent staff. You did well.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:11 p.m.

I echoe those whose response is "Noooooooo!" I've always enjoyed the convenience of walking from home or work to pick up guitar strings from Herb and pre-purchasing tickets to shows at the Ark during the daytime from Herb (they provided a great service for the Ark). I'm due for some new strings, so I'll have to stop by this week and cherish this treasure before it's gone.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 10:32 a.m.

We are going to miss Herb, his staff, and the great studio itself. Over the years we bought several guitars from Herb's shop, took lessons, and when Herb was at the store, we always had good conversations about the guitars and the successful musicians he met and those he fixed guitars for. Herb and his studio have been a very important part of the Ann Arbor experience.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:37 a.m.

Herbie Dude. We first met-up in 1963 when I was a Univ Mich student and you were "upstairs" on State Street! That was 50 yrs ago!. Years later I bought a Martin "Songwriter's" 3/4 guitar from you. I never wrote the songs, but wished I had! I Love that instrument! You Are the Luthier of Ann Arbor! I Salute You your decision to "Hang It Up." Make way for the new strummers Herb; yer smart to make the Retirement Decision. We all gotta go sometime, and that means You and Me dude! Best to ya! Piney.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:14 a.m.

Can't believe it.....


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:15 a.m.

I always enjoyed browsing through the store but over the last 20 years I don't think I ever bought anything. Very strange. I came very close to buying my first real guitar there but the salesman told me I wasn't really a rocker so I split and bought it at Carty's in Ypsi, which unfortunately is also gone. That was my only bad experience. Other than that the staff was very nice.

Linda Peck

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:58 a.m.

Blessings to you Herb and Andrea. Herb, I always enjoyed our little talks over the years, way back to 1976. Have a wonderful time. Keep the faith. Much love. Selfishly, I am sooo glad my uke got repaired before you closed.

Chad Klein

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:40 a.m.

Very sad to hear of Herb's closing. For all those who say there's nowhere else to buy strings: The Ann Arbor area still has THREE other local independently-owned music stores. Use Google. Your local stores appreciate your business! :)


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

And Fast Eddie's on Michigan Ave in Ypsi.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:15 a.m.

Dennis's music, Hewiit near Packard. Small business. Needs more notice, nice guy.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3 a.m.

Oz on Packard, Shar might have strings, but I can't think of another...?


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:34 a.m.

My daughter wanted to join a band so my wife and I brought her a bass guitar from Herb's. The staff was ever so friendly, knowledgable and very supportive while my daughter also took lessons. That had inspired me to learn to play the guitar myself after so many years of wanting to do so. I never got around to learning how to play and I would've taken lessons at Herb's as my daughter had. This place will be missed. I even remember one time that my favorite jazz guitarist, Pat Metheny, came into Herb's to purchased strings during a concert visit in town. Wow. Happy retirement David. Know that you and your shop will forever ever be remember when the townies speak of "old Ann Arbor". Not this modern place it's still attempting to discover.

write winger

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:13 a.m.

Nothing last forever-best wishes to Herb and Andrea.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:57 a.m.

Bummer- is there no place left in core Ann Arbor to support musicians? Do any record stores or anywhere else sell strings? I don't play enough to snap many strings but I always go to Herb David. Too bad, makes me feel old, especially since I remember Marshalls books!

Rod Johnson

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 11:02 p.m.

Whatever its other qualities, Music-Go-Round is a fine place to buy strings. The Ernie Ball strings there are just the same as the ones at Herb David's.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 7:04 p.m.

Been to Music Go Round... poor, poor comparison to Herb David. You're better off shopping on-line than Music Go Round. Herb David is on a totally different level.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

See Mike at Music Go Round


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:16 a.m.

You can get guitar supplies & repairs at Dennis's music Hewitt rd by Packard.

Jaime Magiera

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:52 a.m.

This is really sad. Although gear can be purchased online, a brick-and-morter store provides hands-on shopping, expertise and conversation. Thanks to Herb, Andrea and all the great staff over the years.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 11:50 p.m.

So sad...Please don't sell out and let them build a condo there! John Lennon stepped inside and this place has so muhc history!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

John Lennon was in town Dec. 1971 to do a "Free John Now" benefit concert at Chrysler Arena (for 15,000 people). It is possible he was at Herb Davids on State (and/or one of the hippy paraphernalia shops nearby). Ask the proprietor what really happened back then. John Sinclair - manager of the local MC5 band and member of the White Panther Party - was busted in 1969 for selling a few joints to a Narcotics officer. Judge hated hippies so John had to do a dime (ten years). Hearing of this John Lennon became active. The summer before 18 year olds had also been given the right to vote and Gov. Miliken was about to sign a bill making small dope crime a maximum 90 days. Lennon & Ono played, Sinclair was released, and the Ann Arbor hash bash was born to legalize what is still controversial. Nice writeup -


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:20 a.m.

"David first opened the studio in 1962 in the basement of Bob Marshall's book store on State Street. The business moved to its location in a house on the corner of East Liberty Street and South Fifth Avenue in 1982." By 1982, John Lennon was dead.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:41 a.m.

I'm pretty sure that building is under the dominion of the historic district overlords. Generally this means that they would have to jump through many rings of fire and sacrifice their firstborn before even being allowed to put in a new window or paint it a different color, so I doubt we'll ever see a condo or high rise developed on that corner.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 11:48 p.m.

This stinks. There really isn't anywhere else decent to get strings or other miscellany in A2 that I know of. Making the trip downtown to get those things was kind of annoying in and of itself, but at least it was right by the bus stop, so it wasn't too bad. Looks like there might be a good small business niche opening up for someone with the interest in filling it.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 4:34 p.m.

If there is a viable economic will come.........the problem is at current lease rates and market values downtown, small businesses are not a viable investment. I suspect the building will be for sale soon, if it isn't already.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

See Mike at Music Go Round

The Picker

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 11:48 p.m.

Sorry to see another small business calling it quits. Not many understand the pressures of being a sole proprietor. because you have to keep up a positive public image. The truth is that you have to be a masochist to remain in small business in the 21st century!


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 11:22 p.m.

When my daughter took lessons there, I loved sitting on the porch while I waited. Everyone at the store was so nice and knowledgable. This is a big loss for Ann Arbor.

Chip Reed

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:48 a.m.

It would be difficult to find a better porch for sitting and watching everything...


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 11:06 p.m.

Can the building be adapted for Blimpy Burger?


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 4:26 p.m.

Leasing cost $200 sq. ft., renovations $100,000, 1 blimpy burger $39.95 with fries $49.95


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

Krupper1, EXCELLENT idea, if I could vote you up a million times I would.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 10:58 a.m.

We need to keep that corner as local and non-skyscraper building as possible. I support this idea. Contact Blimpy Burger stat!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:18 a.m.

I like that idea. A lot.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:53 a.m.

That's an idea I can get behind.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 11:06 p.m.

WHAT IS GOING ON!?!?!?!? Oh wait....I'm getting old.....time stops for nothing....

Lizzy Alfs

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 10:59 p.m.

I just want to note: Andrea said the decision to close the studio was because Herb is ready to retire. She didn't want to provide more details at this point, but it's not necessarily because business wasn't good for them.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 10:50 p.m.

Rock on Doug! Were gonna miss you.

John Hritz

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 10:36 p.m.

Not to sound like a broken record, but there should be tax abatement for long standing businesses who are in the middle of major construction projects. Chains are able to negotiate relief from the franchise owner to weather these protracted downturns, but unique local businesses can't rely on the mothership to save them. I came across a survey of State's support for this notion and the State of Michigan recognizes some losses as a partial taking. I wish Herb well in his retirement. I take it that the employees aren't considering continuing the legacy?

Martha Cojelona Gratis

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 10:34 p.m.

Now this is a closure that I am truly sad about. We love you Herb and Andrea!


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

Gah this just makes me sad. I know it's none of my business at all, but I wonder if Herb and Andrea would consider selling the business. It's just so deeply engrained in our community; I just can't imagine walking past that corner and it being anything other then the Studio. Regardless, enjoy your retirement Herb! You, most certainly, have earned it! Thank you for making this community a better place for so many years.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 11:09 p.m.

I'm guessing that if they are closing the business they couldn't find a buyer willing to pay Herb as much as he can get by selling the instruments plus a fair rental price. I think Herb is wise to hold onto his corner, downtown real estate property. Unfortunately, a buyer of the property in the future might be a developer, but the property is value preserved by Herb and could provide sustenance in the future. Unfortunately,, that's seems to be the trajectory in downtown A2, but if nobody comes forward to pay fairly for the property and then continues the business, the rest of us have to accept it, though sadly.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 10:27 p.m.

A real part of the Ann Arbor I remember is now gone, though I never played guitar!

Jim Osborn

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 10:12 p.m.

Please do a follow-up story down at city hall and see what their reaction is to how the BIG DIG hurt small businesses. So many of my generation learned to play and when I was younger, I would see teenagers with guitars being carried about - something that is rare today. I'll miss just hearing the name from time to time.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 10:43 p.m.

I've gotten the impression the businesses on that corner (Herb David, Jerusalem Garden and Earthen Jar) only made it through the epic disaster because of customer loyalty and a strong desire to support these businesses during the never ending hole in the ground. I drove by the underground lot today, mid afternoon, 280 spaces available. Do people just not want to park underground (like me)? Does it ever fill up? I see the attendant lots get full, but I haven't seen a structure full in a long time.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

Jim, it's obvious Polley & City Hall don't care about any local small business. Which is precisely why we need big changes.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 10:11 p.m.

well, I just hope Herb and Andrea have the good sense to preserve the local-ness of the place. The last thing we need is another Walgreens or CVS!


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 4:19 p.m.

Why would you want to put pressure and restrictions on this couple's ability to sell a valuable piece of land to satisfy your perception of what type of develpment is "appropriate"? It's petty. They deseerve to sell without guilt as to what zoning would allow to replace the current business. You should "mind your own business"


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 10:08 p.m.

So sad to hear this - what a loss for Ann Arbor and the Liberty corridor. I wish you health, happiness and great fulfillment in your richly deserved retirement (and speedy reemployment for your great staff!!).


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 10:05 p.m.

With Seva and Herb David gone, that block is going to be quite different (and less appealing imho). End of an era. I hope Jerusalem Garden and Earthen Jar are doing ok. Congratulations to Mr. David on his retirement!

Lizzy Alfs

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 11:52 p.m.

Seva did not move yet. I don't have an update on this right now, but I'll check.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 11:39 p.m.

Did Seva move yet?


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

Certainly sad for Ann Arbor, but I wish the best for Herb, Andrea and all the employees. It was certainly my favorite music store.

Lizzy Alfs

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 9:34 p.m.

Readers: If you haven't read the Herb David 50-year anniversary story, I highly recommend it. It's linked to at the bottom of the story and delves into the life of Herb and the store over the years.

Ann Dwyer

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 9:34 p.m.

If it wasn't for taking guitar lessons at Herb's, I never would have eventually met my husband.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 9:31 p.m.

Nooooo! I don't trust anyone else with my guitar repairs! I hope the luthier ends up working somewhere else in the area, otherwise I will have to make the trek to Elderly in Lansing. Sad, sad day in Ann Arbor.


Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 8:51 p.m.

Try Gallagher's Music in Huntington Woods. They have a awesome guitar tech! I only trust them with my setups and repairs. Saves you trips up to Lansing too :-)


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:32 p.m.

See Mike at Music Go Round


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 9:31 p.m.

Sad to see this Ann Arbor icon go, but Herb deserves some time to just do what he wants to do. Thanks for the memories.

Bob Needham

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 9:29 p.m.

Very sad news, but the retirement is certainly well-deserved. I really enjoyed talking to Herb for the December story.


Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

A casualty of the "Garage Mahal" and the DDA's amateurish attempts at project management. Who elected them anyway? Oh - that's right - nobody.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

It's ridiculous to say that. The guy's been in business for 50 years. How much longer could he have stayed in business?

Ricardo Queso

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 9:23 p.m.

Wow, if a half of a decade is 50 years ...

Lizzy Alfs

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 9:32 p.m.

Thanks, that has been corrected.

Reverend Bubba X

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 : 9:22 p.m.

This is a major loss for Ann Arbor.