FACES Tyler Stang By Andrew King T yler Stang started his MI career at Edmonton, AB’s Avenue Guitars in 2005. Over the subsequent years, he never hid the fact that he aspired to be just like storeowner Brian Shultze, his mentor and longtime friend. Sure enough, a decade later, a guitar specialty store with Stang’s name over the door was officially open for business in Edmonton. “I’ve been into guitar gear since even before I started playing,” admits Stang, recalling the day he bought a pile of guitar magazines from the ‘80s to kill time on a two-hour drive from Edmonton to Lloydminster. “The centerfold poster in one of the old issues of Guitar World was a 1964 Fender Stratocaster in Burgundy Mist Metallic and that lit a fire in me. To this day, that’s my dream guitar and started me on my love of gear.” The thought of a non-guitarist buying a stack of guitar magazines would seem stranger were it not for Stang’s already impressive musical pedigree. Growing up in Edmonton and then Lloydminster, Stang was immersed in music from a young age. His father was a drummer in a busy cover band and the family had several instruments – plus a jukebox and over 11,000 45s – around the house always begging for attention. “So I was always interested in music, playing piano, and then clarinet, saxo- phone, bass, and then guitar,” he shares. “Once I started playing guitar at age 15, that was basically my only interest from then on.” He and some friends started a band and, as Stang says, he’s “never looked back.” From then on, he bought every guitar magazine he could get his hands on and went through each issue several times. Later, while studying business at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, he spent hours and hours on a fledging website called Harmony Central, reading as many gear reviews as he could – which, for awhile, was all of them. “That meant I was reading thousands of gear reviews per week,” he says. “I’ve been the ‘product knowledge’ guy at every place I’ve ever worked – selling cars, telephone systems, advertising… So I just have a head for storing it all.” 20 CANADIAN MUSIC TRADE After years as a regular customer, Stang started work at Avenue Guitars in 2005 as sales manager. He and Shul- tze worked closely together over the subsequent years, with Stang planning to purchase the business when its owner was ready to sell or retire; however, Shultze passed away in the fall of 2013 after a bout with cancer. Stang stayed onboard at Avenue until May 2014, still hoping to pur- chase the business though a deal simply couldn’t be reached. “I left with only my contacts and my reputation and started building what would be Stang Guitars,” he says. “I secured commitments from Fender and [Ernie Ball] Music Man the next day and went full steam ahead.” After finding the right location, securing financing, planning the lay- out, and stocking the store “with as few compromises as possible” – a process that took nearly three times as long as he was hoping – Stang Guitars was open for business in early 2015. In the store, Stang straddles the balance between being on the sales floor (which he loves “more than anything”) and working on administrative affairs in his office (which he’s “trying to do a lot less”). Over the course of a given day, in addition to either of those activities, he could also be putting up ads, running the store’s social media feeds, or shooting video for YouTube. Come closing time, the single father heads home to spend time with and cook for his daughter and get her to piano lessons, often practices with one of his two bands, and handles online sales from his phone until he falls asleep. In his admittedly limited leisure time, he enjoys running, cooking and eating good food, and then “having to run some more.” Though most of his travel is work-related, including an annu- al trip to The NAMM Show, he does en- joy heading down to Las Vegas once or twice per year to “blow off some steam.” In fact, two of those activities will come together in November when Stang heads to Sin City for a half-marathon. “Two birds, one stone,” he says with a smile. On the horizon for the business is a web- site redesign, set to launch in a few weeks, and hopefully a successful Christmas sea- son that will allow him to “refill the hooks at NAMM,” which is one of his favourite things about owning a guitar shop. The clear favourite, though, is and will always be opening the new boxes de- livered to the shop week after week. “I’ve never lost my love of gear one bit,” Stang asserts. “I sell so I can order new guitars my customers will love. I don’t collect guitars for myself, though I have about 15-ish at home. I just love playing the new ones and showing them to customers and see- ing happy faces walk out with them.” That’s something he’s relished since well before opening Stang Guitars, and undoubtedly, Shultze would be proud to see him carrying on that tradition. Andrew King is the Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Music Trade.