Cream City Music is a slice of heaven for guitarists
A respectful and almost reverential hush fell over the crowd as Willy Porter stepped toward the microphone at Cream City Music.
It was a Sunday afternoon in mid July and Porter, one of Milwaukee's guitar heroes, was getting ready to play a few songs at a benefit for injured musician Jim Kishline. Porter, used to playing in slightly more raucous settings, looked at the rows of guitars behind him, turned to the several dozen spectators in front of him and said, "This feels a little like church; It's like guitar church."
For guitar players, a visit to Cream City's showroom, located at 12505 W. Bluemound Rd. in Brookfield, can seem like a religious experience. There are more than 500 guitars on display, including a wall of vintage instruments behind the service counter and a separate showroom featuring new and used Gretsch guitars.
"We've got the largest display of vintage instruments in Southeastern Wisconsin," said Joe Gallenberger, who owns the shop with his wife, Jessi.
"What really sets us apart is the combination of the vintage and the new. We are one of only two independently owned, authorized Gibson dealers in the area, and we're proud of that. Plus, we've got the world's only all-Gretsch showroom.
"There aren't really a lot of places like ours around."
Gallenberger, who at age 39 has nearly two decades of experience in the guitar business, moved to his present location about a year ago from Bay View, where he worked at Crown Music and then hung out his own shingle and opened Warpdrive Music.
"We were renting in Bay View," Gallenberger said. "About a year and a half ago, we bought this building. We spent six months rehabbing it, we did about a quarter-million (dollars) in updates, and finally made the move in December of last year."
Although the square footage of the facility is almost the same as his previous location, Gallenberger said that higher ceilings and the layout allowed him to be more efficient with his storage and double the size of his showroom.
"Another thing that is unique about our store is that a lot of our displays are on wheels," he said. "That allows us to move them and have in-store clinics and concerts."
The Gretsch showroom, which includes memorabilia and guitars, is located just to the left of the entrance.
"We're good friends with Fred Gretsch and about a half-dozen times a year, we'll go to cities around the country and it's like a guitar road show. We were at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, Ga. Fred did a meet and greet. We do appraisals and we can buy and sell instruments."
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