Days of Wine and Axes

New downtown store blends alcohol and guitars. Why didn’t we think of that?

Castillo calls the store “a lifelong dream.”

By opening Downtown Vintage Guitars (1106 S. Third St.) in the heart of the Arts District in August, Mark Castillo realized a childhood dream. Now that he’s opening a bar serving vintage wine and fine spirits, the dream is taking shape nicely.

Guitars have intrigued Castillo since watching his father play when he was younger, leading him to build his first guitar as a young man. But his hobby got sidetracked when Castillo became a successful interior designer. His love of the instrument never waned, though, and Castillo realized it was time to do something about it. So he quit his day job and opened the store.

“I’ve always loved guitars, I’m 50 years old, and I have to get on with it,” Castillo says. “It’s a lifelong dream. Our staff is comprised of friends that share the same goals and passion, which makes for a formidable team.”

The staff of four offers guitar restoration, custom builds and modifications, amps and vintage axes for sale. Some of the more notable guitars on offer include a late ’70s American Fender Stratocaster ($1,999), a mid ’60s Gibson Melody Maker in the popular sunburst finish ($1,375) and a custom mandolin for $10,000.

“It’s a hand-carved F-shape in the style of Lloyd Loar of Gibson fame,” Castillo says. “The truth behind it is, he’s never been able to sell it, and I probably won’t either. It’s a special instrument looking for someone of the right caliber, but nobody is looking for it.”

Castillo’s interior design background is evident throughout the store, which looks like it has been around for years. Warm, broken-in leather furniture and custom displays create an inviting space. The bar, set to open Nov. 5, will add to the atmosphere.

“Everything you see I built from the ground up, so it has been integral in the look and feel of the shop. Here at the Arts District, our ongoing transition from guitar shop to an intimate venue and urban lounge has been painless. A lot of love has been put into crafting this shop.”