Kathryn Hunter - Kathryn Parrot Photography
Frank Gross of Thunder Road Guitars.

Thunder Road Guitars is music to West Seattle

By Kathryn Hunter

Frank Gross loves guitars.

Influenced by his late father, also a musician, Frank involved himself in rock music. His knowledge of vintage guitars began while working for Guitar Center and later managing Emerald City Guitars in Pioneer Square. He played in bands as early as the 6th grade, and after high school toured the world with his Victory Records rock band, “On the Last Day.” Today he plays lead guitar in his current local band, “Torch Burner.”

Last year, Gross decided to give small business a try to create a more stable lifestyle that still involved his passion for guitars and music.

“I always found it odd that our community didn't have a music store, especially considering how many musicians live over here,” Gross said.

“When the day came to open a storefront, I knew it had to be in West Seattle where I grew up. I wouldn’t want it to be anywhere else.”

After the bumpy first year that some new small business owners go through. Gross persevered through the slow times by driving all over the Pacific Northwest in his 1986 Volvo 240 DL, often breaking down on the side of the road in search of the next rare and cool find.

“Once the website was complete and we were officially in business, workflow was very hot and cold. Either I had three guitars going out the door to customers in New York, Japan and the UK or I had absolutely nothing going on.”

The transition from a strictly online business to opening a physical location was a far from easy task. After navigating the city permitting process, securing financing and facing seemingly endless challenges , Gross, with the help of his wife Kelcy, officially launched their empire in physical form last November. They named it Thunder Road Guitars.

“One of my favorite memories is of the month Kelcy and I spent doing renovations to the store before opening. I was still running the online portion of Thunder Road during the day and at night we did most of the store renovations. It felt like I didn't have a break for a month. Seeing how great the store looked the day we opened and how far this little idea I had in my head had come in under a year made it all worth it.”

The storefront on California Avenue in West Seattle expanded from carrying only guitars and amplifiers to offering a wide selection of boutique guitar effects such as strings, picks, cables and other accessories. Gross still goes on road trips hunting for sought-after and unique inventory, but now that business is doing better than ever, more customers from all over the globe contact Thunder Road Guitars to broker, trade and sell their guitars. The shop has sold to prominent musicians including Joe Satriani and Joe Bonamassa as well as other local celebrities and touring musicians.

Thunder Road Guitars is located at 3916 California Ave S.W. and is open Tuesday through Saturday 10am till 6pm and Monday by appointment.

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