Chris DiPinto’s reason for opening his own guitar shop was quite simple: He is left-handed.
“It’s hard to find left-handed guitars,” DiPinto said. “You’ll see maybe four [left-handed guitars] out of the whole 80 guitars in here. When I started playing back in the ’80s, there were even less. And you couldn’t find anything interesting. So I started to get into weird, old, retro ’60s instruments. I had to make them in order to get something that was neat looking.”
DiPinto, with help from his wife Sophy, is the owner of DiPinto Electric Guitars and Basses, a small shop that originated in Old City in 1995, moved to Northern Liberties and ultimately settled in Fishtown at 407 E. Girard Ave. DiPinto said the price of rent in Old City and then Northern Liberties skyrocketed, forcing him to make a move.
“We decided to buy [instead of rent],” DiPinto said. “Fishtown was one of the last areas that was still pretty affordable, and there were already musicians and artists coming to this area.”
The company was originally founded as merely a repair shop. Over time, the store slowly made the transition to a guitar gallery featuring both vintage guitars and DiPinto’s various guitar creations. While the gallery walls remain adorned with colorful and stylish guitars for sale, the company has also evolved into a full-scale guitar manufacturing operation.
Companies not only from across the nation sell DiPinto’s creations, but shops from countries as distant as Italy, Germany, Japan and Mexico do as well.
“The fact that [foreign countries] find out about [my guitars] is incredible,” DiPinto said. “Knowing these guitars have been shipped around the world is great.”
Numerous acclaimed rockers have donned DiPinto’s hand-made guitars, including Jack White, Kurt Vile, Earl Slick, Elliot Easton and Rick Nielsen – a musician whom DiPinto, a self-proclaimed Cheap Trick fanatic, referred to as a personal hero. While famous customers stop by the shop once in a blue moon, DiPinto said he still meets up with them at shows when they are in the area.
From finding a repair shop, to making oddball guitars (his first one being a 10-string mandocello), to becoming acquainted with some of the most respected guitarists in the rock scene, DiPinto’s love for guitars had to begin somewhere.
“I started playing [guitar] when I was about 10, I guess,” DiPinto said. “No one built instruments in my family before that. It was just something I learned how to do, basically with some tools in the garage.”
Text, images and video by Tyler Sablich.