Last week Matt Umanov Guitars released the following bittersweet statement: “After fifty-three years of having been in the business of helping so many guitar (and all the other fretted instruments) players have the tools with which to make music, forty-eight of those years at my store here in Greenwich Village, in the great City of New York, it is finally time for me to close this chapter of my life, relax some, travel some, play with the grandkids, all that kind of thing, though I wouldn’t quite call it “retirement”; I’ll still be around.”
There is no expiring lease or greedy landlord tripling the rent, as Umanov has owned his building for the past 25 years. He just thinks at 70 years old, it’s time for a change.
We understand. But Matt Umanov Guitars will be missed by many, particularly us here at GVSHP, to whom Matt has been a great friend. Umanov Guitars exemplified a creative, vital, local business. Matt was a staunch advocate for the preservation of the South Village, where his business was located, and where he lived and owned property. He was a member of GVSHP’s Historic South Village Advisory Board, spoke at our 2007 Columbus Day Salute to the South Village, and did a “Save the South Village” video for GVSHP. Thanks to the efforts of Matt and many others, his part of the South Village was landmarked in 2010.
Umanov Guitars was a 1996 GVSHP Village Awardee and January, 2016, GVSHP Business of The Month. Matt also authored a great story about Bob Dylan in GVSHP’s book Greenwich Village Stories, which he does not repeat in the oral history GVSHP conducted with him in 2015 because “I’ve had to tell it so many times…Buy the damned book….because two things will have been served: one, since the amount of money from it goes to support GVSHP, you will be giving money to GVSHP, and two, you will save me from having to tell you that story again.”
Although the Dylan story is not part of the oral history, there are plenty of other amazing stories in there, including his family history, the founding of the business, its operations for the past 50 years, and the successful attempts of Village residents to keep out businesses they were united against, such as noisy bars, “cheap” jewelry stores, and large chains. Umanov is offering 20% off everything in the store, which he anticipates closing for good by January.
We at GVSHP wish Matt all the best and sincerely THANK him for his 50 years of being an integral part of the community, first on Bedford Street in 1969, then 276 Bleecker Street in 1977, and in its current location at 273 Bleecker since 1982.