- Courtesy of Alexander Duvel
For almost 15 years, Andy’s Music has sat unassumingly at the corner of Belmont and Oakley. From the outside, it looks like a no-frills storefront, but entering the shop unveils a seemingly never-ending network of rooms stacked with instruments from all over the globe—almost like a world music version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. But the city risks losing one of its most original music retailers this summer.
Andy Cohen has been a staple of the Chicago Music Industry for 25 years, both in retail and back line gear rental. Those amps and drum kits used onstage at Pitchfork and other street festivals around town? Those came from Cohen. Shortly after Cohen opened his shop in Roscoe Village 14 years ago, Alexander Duvel came on board as the store’s manager, and he’s been there since, expanding the shop’s inventory to include sitars, gongs, talking drums, and other instruments from five continents. “I have managed the world music store for 13 years this coming October,” says Duvel, “basically building it into what it is today.”
But Cohen has decided to close shop in August. “Andy is a creative soul and he wants to focus on building his music studio and playing music,” says Duvel. “He is tired of the retail pressures. So he wants out, for no other reason than to have the freedom to do other things.” So Duvel and his wife Suzzanne Monk are stepping in with plans to buy the shop from Cohen.
Duvel plans to change the store’s name to Worlds of Music Chicago, and hopes to get even more exotic instruments in the door and start programming events, jam sessions, workshops, and live music. He says that the store will also be open later and on more days per week, with the goal of acquiring any instrument on the planet that customers may want to get their hands on.
The couple currently has a GoFundMe site running to help with the purchase and transition. In a world where you can get guitars at Best Buy, purchasing and running an independent music shop is expensive and risky, and having a community to help keep the dream alive is important. “Our crowdfunding campaign has been a big success,” Duvel says. “It has allowed us to get the process of acquiring the legal foundations necessary much sooner, and has inspired some very important conversations with some caring friends and professionals that have helped us to expand our possible sources of financing.” On Fri 3/20, they’ll host a “metamorphosis” event to show appreciation for customers and donors. “We’ll do some sales, serve some refreshments and play live music continuously until 10 PM to celebrate the transition,” he says. Those plans are still being solidified, but an update will come along once they are.
So check out the shop and donate if you can. Andy’s is a treasure that should continue to grow. And imagine if the only music store left in town was Guitar Center. Yuck.