Long Beach’s last independent music store, Gilmore Music, may see the end of its days soon unless someone steps up to save the 75-year-old storefront.
It’s a tough predicament for Gilmore Music after its owner and operator, Clint Gilmore, died of cancer in November 2020. He was 70. Clint’s wife, Linda, has since stepped up to run the business, but after six months Linda said she’s not sure how much longer she can keep it up.
Whether relief comes by community intervention, a new buyer, or a generous benefactor willing to shell out the funds to keep the store operated by its current staff—as Linda has her fingers crossed for—is up to anyone. But ultimately, Linda hopes that Clint’s store and legacy can live on.
“If it’s not sustainable, I’m going to have to liquidate. It’s not an easy thing to step into. It’s not even an easy thing for me, and I have a master’s degree for Godsakes,” Linda said. Prior to taking over the shop, Linda worked as a special education teacher. “Clint just knew how to do it. He was a good businessman.”
Glenn Gilmore, Clint’s father, a long-time musician opened up the music store on Seventh Street and Cherry Avenue in 1946, just five years after he married his wife, Esther. Over the years, Glenn Gilmore earned a fine reputation for his instrument repair work.
“Glenn Gilmore was known as the violin specialist around town,” said Ilse Benz, owner of Gilmore Music’s neighboring music venue, Que Sera.
Both Clint and his older brother, Greg, grew up helping their father run the business. But in his free time, Clint would play with his band, Bittersweet Seven.
“Clint loved all kinds of music,” Linda said.
When Clint took over his father’s shop in 1988, he had big plans. He expanded inventory, adding a more diverse range of instruments from ethnic to electronic assortments and built a recording studio in the back of the store. Gilmore Music soon became the one-stop-shop for any and all music needs.
“It was the shop to go to at one point back then,” said Antoine Arvizu, drummer and owner of Compound recording studio.
In the early 90s, Arvizu said he spent a lot of time in Gilmore Music’s studio working for nearly five years as a part-time recording engineer for Clint.
“It was a fun little room and reminded me of those high school band rooms in the 60’s where they had that acoustic wall board with the little holes in it,” he said. “Clint was a funny cat…easy to work with.”
While working at Gilmore’s Arvizu met local musician Ikey Owens, the Grammy-award winning keyboardist most known for his work with Jack White and The Mars Volta. Arvizu said Owens recorded his first album with his band, Pocket Lent, at the studio.
“Turned into a 25-year relationship of record-making with him,” Arvizu said. Owens died in 2014.
Gilmore Music saw its fair share of high-profile musicians visit the shop over the years, including members of Long Beach bands Sublime and War, Danny Elfman, Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre and Melissa Etheridge, who, during the start of her career, would play frequently next door at Que Sera.
Clint was considered a savant when it came to repairing instruments, able to fix anything, Linda said, adding that he would use the same tools dating back to the 1900s his father and grandfather used to repair the instruments.
“Clint was brilliant,” Benz said and recalled a memory she shared with Clint regarding an alto sax she took in for repair. “He rattled off the name of the company, where the company was located, what state, it was like a little history lesson on that alto sax in a pawn shop.”
“That’s really what he loved, is the repair part, more than anything,” Linda said of her husband. “Brass was a bigger challenge he really looked forward to. After he had straightened out all the dents and polished it, had it all up and working—he was so proud of that.”
Local blues and Americana musician Mike Malone, who recorded the first of his music at the studio inside Gilmore Music, said he remembers Clint as “super dry, you know, deadpan” but always remembered to ask about his son, who picked up his first violin from Gilmore Music when he was in middle school.
Clint also had a soft spot for helping people, Malone said, and would give him the “righteous bro deal” when he needed to buy harmonicas. For 15 years, Clint supported the Jazz Angels, a music education non-profit founded by Barry Cogert. Clint helped with repairs, monetary donations—even gave away instruments to some of the kids in the program.
“He liked to help out the college kids that were into music,” Linda said. “That was his thing, whenever he would advertise [hiring] he’d try to get college kids to come in and try to work around their schedules so they could make some money.”
By the mid 2000s, Gilmore Music became the last independently owned, non-specialized music store in the city—outlasting both World of Strings and Whittaker Music in Los Altos. Now, Long Beach might have to say goodbye to its music mainstay.
Working to help keep Gilmore Music standing is Amy Eriksen, Director of Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro and former music education teacher for the Long Beach Unified School District. Eriksen said that once she heard of Clint’s passing and the uncertain future of the store, she felt compelled to help.
“This is our last music store in town. I think it would be a big loss to our community if we didn’t have one,” Eriksen said.
Over the last few weeks, Eriksen and Linda have met with various arts, music and business leaders in the city to brainstorm potential uses for the space. While Linda ultimately wants to see her husband’s store and legacy continue, she recognizes the challenge of finding a buyer to run a music store during one of the toughest economic crises in history.
“I think the goal is to see what the community could do to keep Gilmore’s music legacy in the community but get her out of having to run it,” Eriksen said. “I think art and music in this town is very important. I’m a product of Long Beach Unified’s love for music.”
Arvizu said he hopes Gilmore Music sticks around, believing that independently owned shops like Clint’s store, are the heart and spirit of any music community.
“I miss those mom and pop shops,” Arvizu said. “You know, someone who was willing to get up every day and just run a music store, because he loved music. He loved repairing the gear, he loved his clients. He loved the community.”
Gilmore is survived by his wife of 37 years, Linda; daughter, Ashley; sisters, Laura and Kathy and brother, Greg.