TAMPA — In high school, Kyle Bailey and his buddies jammed out to Metallica covers in their garage thrash band.
Decades later, his 10-year-old son wanted to learn to play, too.
Bailey, 44, said his son's passion inspired him to open his own guitar shop, one that had the selection of a big box music store but still encouraged players to trade in for new gear.
The son of the former owner of Washington, D.C.-based Strayer University, Bailey decided to invest in his own guitar shop, called Replay Guitar Exchange. It will open Saturday in Britton Plaza.
While Bailey declined to say how much he invested, more than a month before its scheduled opening the 6,000-square foot store had six employees, including a professional luthier and salesmen. More than 400 brand new shining electric guitars are displayed at the front of the store, including a wall of Gibson and Fender models starting at $100.
An acoustic room down the hallway of the store is lined with black felt material, has a walnut floor and accent walls. Across the hall is a separate room dedicated to amps.
The store is outfitted with four practice rooms for individual lessons, which are outfitted with iMacs and expensive microphones. Students will be able to bring home a recording of their lessons on thumb drives, Bailey said.
There's also a small shop area, where the store's luthier, Brad Lehmann, fixed Chris LeFever's Parker P36, a small electric guitar covered with blue synthetic alligator skin.
"Any time I need something done I call him," said LeFever, a Busch Gardens staff musician. "I won't take it to anyone else."
Lehmann said he is able to handle any guitar repair issue — another service offered for customers of the new store.
"I worked for a guy on tour who broke (his guitar) every night," he said. "He was like, sorry about that, can you fix it for tomorrow?"
LeFever said he was looking forward to the store's official opening, adding that there's nothing like it in the region.
"This is a Manhattan quality store," he said.
Originally, Bailey said he envisioned that the store would sell only used items, providing customers with a welcoming place to upgrade their equipment affordably. Realizing how difficult it would be to stock enough inventory, he branched out with new items as well.
Bailey said he was inspired in part by Chicago Music Exchange's extensive vintage selection. A key hire for him was Kent Sonnenberg, the former owner of Legends Guitar Shop who has been selling used guitars in Tampa for 30 years.
"Before he came on board I wouldn't invest in vintage guitars," Bailey said. "He's like the rain man of guitars ... He knows if you take off this or that piece, there will be a signature on it."
With Sonnenberg's expertise, Bailey has filled one of the back rooms of the shop with about 50 vintage guitars, at price tags ranging from $1,000 to $20,000.
Although many independent music stores have shuttered in recent years, Bailey said that there is a need for the new shop and all the services it will provide.
"I thought the area really could use a store like this with a good selection of high-end gear with a professional staff," he said.
Contact Alli Knothe at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @KnotheA.