Growing downtown keeps guitar shop strumming in Youngstown

Hootenanny Vintage Guitars reopened in downtown Youngstown, Ohio.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The increase in pedestrian traffic in downtown Youngstown has led a Youngstown State University biology professor to reopen – of all things- his guitar business.

After a five year hiatus, Tom Diggins re-opened Hootenanny Vintage Guitars. Now, nearly six months into its second go-round, Diggins is amazed at the changes to downtown.

“It’s like night and day. There is just a lot more going on down here,” Diggins said.

Diggins is a biology professor by day, but by Friday evening he is downtown selling vintage guitars he restored himself.

“I get a lot of ‘Whoa, guitar shop! And they are feeling like it’s got a little New York City flair to it,” Diggins said. “The whole area really does. It is a neat little urban corridor.”

Diggins first opened Hootenanny Vintage Guitars in 2009. Most of his sales were online, and there was very little foot traffic at his little shop along Phelps Street. When he closed a year later, he held on to his lease, hopeful that downtown would make a comeback. And comeback, it has.

“Four years ago if there was somebody walking around, they were probably just on break from work or something like that. Now, there are actually people down here. A lot more foot traffic,”

On festival weekends, Diggins will get a few hundred people through the door of the tiny store. But even on normal evenings, interest is there.

“There are music venues just up the street, and a lot more little eateries and little pubs and things that are open,” Diggins said.

Sharon Woodberry, Youngstown director of community planning and economic development, said she still runs into people who don’t realize all downtown has to offer. She said the area is a destination where people come to see what’s happening.

“I love to see the look on their faces when their response is just wonder. It is not what they expected,” Woodberry said.

Diggins says part of his success has been the hours he keeps. The shop is open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. He said that is when people are out and about and stop in.

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