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Friday, November 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 15.0° F  Light Snow Fog/Mist
The Daily
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Greg Ginter's Guitar Shop of Wisconsin faces rough recovery after fire
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Greg Ginter's Guitar Shop of Wisconsin qualifies as an east side fixture, having opened in 1994.
Credit:Scott Gordon

Greg Ginter stood in his Guitar Shop of Wisconsin on Tuesday afternoon lamenting a Pizza Pal Electric Oven.

Ginter's inventory of about 500 guitars and 300 amplifiers was largely unscathed in a fire that broke out last Thursday afternoon at the store, at 2215 Atwood Avenue. But he said he'd never be able to replace the frozen-pizza contraption -- which he says he acquired from a Hazel Green, Wisconsin, bar in 1977 -- and he now has to temporarily move his business while he repairs the space.

The fire started when a cardboard shipping carton sitting on the store's kitchen stove ignited. Ginter went for a fire extinguisher and his repairman Sid Williams went for a garden hose. Two customers were in the store at the time and called 911, Ginter says.

By the time firefighters arrived, the fire was out but the shop was full of smoke. Ginter says firefighters told him that when the fire was put out, it was "within 30 seconds of a complete flashover." Fire Department fans blew out the smoke but also covered much of the place in a thin film of fire-extinguisher chemicals.

"See this yellow powder all over?" Ginter said Tuesday. "That's the messiest shit."

He'll have to wipe it off a lot of guitars, but only one, an Alvarez acoustic, was destroyed in the flames. Other casualties included a CD and plaque commemorating the song "Go You Packers Go!" by The Wizenhiemers, for whom Ginter used to serve as a guitar tech.

The kitchen is rather charred, the rest of the shop bears some smoke damage, and Ginter says his upstairs apartment took a hit too. The kitchen is at the back of the building, so there was no damage to the building's front, which Ginter spruced up last year with some help from a city of Madison Facade Improvement Grant. Ginter is clearly proud of the building, which he notes was "ordered out of Sears catalog as a general store" in 1902.

The store qualifies as an east side fixture, having opened in 1994. A visit to Ginter is refreshingly not the slick Guitar Center experience. Expect to step gingerly around the piled-high amps in the aisles, and be ready for Ginter to strike up a conversation about anything he might feel like showing off. That was still the case as we toured the damage Tuesday: "This ain't cheap shit," he proclaimed jovially, taking out a beautiful Stratocaster with a $1,199 price tag.

All the store's inventory will have to be removed while Ginter sets up elsewhere and catches up on 25 to 30 backed-up service orders. He says it might take two or three months to get back into the space, and he'll likely have a sale soon to whittle down inventory. The Capital Times reported that the Madison Fire Department estimates damage from the fire at $35,000. Ginter says that, though insurance will help some, the cost may be closer to $60,000 when he factors in lost business.

Ginter admits that small music shops take a rough blow from slim margins, Guitar Center, Amazon.com and Craigslist. But then again, he says, there aren't many places left in town for amp repair, which makes his service business important.

"My fire?" Ginter says. "Inconsequential. Except for the Madison music community. We fix their shit."

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