WEST TOWN — A shop selling vintage guitars, amplifiers, synthesizers and other music equipment opened in West Town.
PTD Vintage, 913 N. Ashland Ave., is the brick-and-mortar showroom of instrument reseller Johnny O’Brien, a local musician and actor who moved into the space earlier this fall.
O’Brien sells electric and acoustic guitars through his Reverb page, where he also features keyboards, microphones and other instruments.
As O’Brien’s collection grew in recent years, he started keeping an eye out for a convenient place to showcase his wares. He landed on the West Town space, which was previously occupied by vintage furniture store Spot! before it moved to Humboldt Park.
O’Brien mostly refurbishes the instruments, part of a larger flipping process he said has become “a bit of an obsession.”
“Obviously, there’s profit to be made if you can flip something and get a good price on it. But I’d say there’s a huge satisfaction in taking something that hasn’t been played in forever, something that’s an absolute wreck, and, you know, shining up that penny,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien has long played guitar, bass and other instruments. He played in several bands in Chicago in the mid- to late 2000s and casually started reselling equipment while playing and touring. He also began to land more on-screen acting jobs, and has appeared in commercials and local TV shows such as “Empire” and “Chicago Fire.”
But that work dried up during the early days of the pandemic. O’Brien was driving across the United States when he stopped in Iowa and bought a vintage guitar, which he resold.
“I picked up this 12-string from the ’70s, turned it over and I was like, ‘All right. Next one,'” he said. “I thought about what skills do I have that I can just go up and get a brand new job. And this is what it was ultimately.”
O’Brien’s collection has grown, and he’s even started importing reissued guitars from Japan, he said. Finding old, forgotten guitars and other instruments has evolved into more than a passion, he said.
“It’s a sickness. I can’t get over it,” O’Brien said, laughing. “I could be the most famous movie star in the world, and if I’m driving through, like, Topeka, Kansas, and I see the sign that says ‘estate sale,’ I have to go.”
The equipment quickly started taking up a lot of space in O’Brien’s living room, he said. He moved into the West Town location in October and has spent the past few weeks painting and renovating. He also built a stage in hopes of eventually hosting low-key shows and other events.
The surrounding blocks in the West Town area have become home to a growing number of vintage and antique stores in recent years, including River Otter, Circa Modern, Converso, The Stoop and others, many of which are open on weekends or by appointment.
O’Brien said he wants to create a similar vibe with PTD Vintage. The shop is open noon-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, or via appointment through the store’s Instagram.
“This is a great place to buy an attainable guitar that has age on it, that you don’t have to be precious with, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a junky instrument,” O’Brien said. “It’s a great place to come if you want a great-feeling guitar. It’s not just a secondhand instrument. It’s a work of art that just needs a new driver.”
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