Twin Town Guitars
3400 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55408
The phone was ringing. I was trying to reach Andrew Bell, one of the owners of Twin Town Guitars in Minneapolis. Someone else answered, and upon hearing I was calling on behalf of EarthQuaker Devices, blurted, “Love your pedals!" The feeling is mutual - Twin Town was one of EarthQuaker’s early dealers and they’ve enjoyed a fruitful relationship ever since. I heard that Twin Town was a shop not to be missed and my friends at EarthQuaker enthusiastically endorsed this sentiment.
Physical guitar shops and record stores alike are more than an outlet for buying gear or vinyl. The environment is socially and creatively crucial to the community it serves. Musicians meet, connections are made, and knowledge is dispensed. Kudos to similar shops like Fanny’s House of Music, Old Style, Midwest Buy & Sell, and Southside Guitars. This and subsequent posts in the same vein are in celebration of and shine a light on quality shops that stock the very best used and new gear. Shop owners and employees will also share some local wisdom about where visitors should go after spending the entire day at their shop!
As advertised, Twin Town is a shop “by and for musicians.” Founded in 1997 by Andrew and Carrie Bell, their honest and positive approach to music retail is a welcome departure from stores with a less personal feel. The beloved store offers used and new gear, service, and lessons. It is even environmentally conscious, incorporating Minnesota-made solar panels to power the shop (more on that later)! Showcases and recitals fill out their event calendar but what we want to know is, how did this music oasis and community-oriented shop get started and thrive?
Before they closed and sold in 1994, Twin Town’s current location was once the home of Roger Benedict’s Music. Since taking over, Bell created a nearly unanimously approved shop (seriously, check their reviews) and are featured on various lists hailing them one of the best stores in the Twin Cities. A chat with Bell reinforces why they’re successful and respected. He also gives us a peek at some of his favorite shop instruments and pedals. The library is open!
Interview with Andrew Bell, owner
Emily Elhaj: Share a little history about Twin Town.
Andrew Bell: After [the closure of Benedict’s] this location was a VCR repair shop and another attempted guitar store. We got the lease in July 1997 when Twin Town Guitars was born. We all loved guitars and amplifiers, and brick and mortar shops were the norm. eBay and online [retail] was in its infancy, so if you wanted to 'stay tuned” with what was out there, you made the rounds of guitar shops every week or so. If you wanted repairs and lessons you looked to your neighborhood music store for this, too. In 2006, we bought the building and have expanded on it ever since.
EE: What’s one fact everyone should know about the store?
AB: We love offering a good selection and pricing of products along with knowledgeable staff and teachers. However, if there is one thing you need to know about us it is that we’re honest.
EE: Can you speak on the environmental strides Twin Town is making?
AB: We’re firm believers in being good stewards of our planet and community, for now and the future. We believe in science, and that people are impacting our planet in potentially negative ways. We conserve, recycle, and reuse - even the gear we sell. We have 100 solar panels on our R-40 spray foam roof generating most of our electricity needs. We’re grid-tied, have low flow plumbing fixtures, LED lighting throughout, and Nest thermostats monitoring our energy usage. Even our 110-year-old building is finding a new life into the 2020’s!
EE: Most interesting instrument currently in the shop?
AB: There’s a 1900’s Chicago-area parlor that is pretty interesting. Cool amps and older effects… and weird drums and snares in the drum shop. Hard to nail down just one.
EE: Favorite instrument you’ve ever sold?
AB: I had a small collection of Selmer Amplifiers I didn’t want to part with, but did. Some might say a Fender Custom Shop Lucite Stratocaster may have been the most interesting.
EE: Some Minneapolis musicians that frequent the shop and keep it going?
AB: There are a bunch and we love them all. Signed, unsigned, working (or not)…on our staff, or at large. We’re here for them, not for us.
EE: When did Twin Town start carrying EarthQuaker pedals?
AB: As soon as I heard about EQD we got them. Loved them ever since. It was right after you launched the first five pedals.
EE: What’s on your board?
AB: I have a vintage DOD 250, Block Phase 90, DM-3, and a booster made by Fulltone. But that’s for the 90’s rock stuff.
EE: Any tried and true combinations to share?
AB: No, and that’s the beauty of it. Go wild!
Dig in To Minneapolis!
EE: What’s the first thing someone visiting Minneapolis should eat?
AB: President Obama went in for a local legend called the Juicy Lucy served at Matt’s. It’s a double cheeseburger with the cheese inside. It a molten-cheese delight. Maybe that’s what one should go for. Or wild rice. Or walleye…
EE: Favorite breakfast, lunch, or dinner in Minneapolis?
AB: My favorite breakfast? Currently Victor’s 1959 Café, a cuban restaurant inspired by revolutionary ideology. Love it. Lunch? The CC Club has a wicked-good burger, and they’re right down the street in one of Minneapolis’ iconic watering holes. So many dinner places to choose from but maybe The Anchor (Fish and Chips) in NE is a great way to spend an evening out for dinner.
EE: Best local beer?
AB: This is the Land of 10,000 microbrews…but Summit still takes first place with 100 right behind it.
EE: Favorite bar?
AB: Such a hard question, but if it’s not the CC Club, maybe it’s Volstead’s, the speakeasy in the basement of a building down the street. It’s a lot like a 20’s drinking-joint for an off-the-radar experience.
EE: Favorite music venue?
EE: What should bands know about Minneapolis audiences?
AB: Minnesota audiences are appreciative and know their indie rock. They’ll give you a chance but bring your “A-game,” otherwise it could be hard to get another shot.
EE: What touristy or non-touristy thing is a must-do?
AB: Touristy? Walk across the Mississippi over the stone arch bridge especially at night. It’s beautiful! Non-touristy? We’re all just tourists here.
EE: Favorite Minneapolis slang?
AB: Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it’s, “hey you want a pop with your hot dish before you drive up north?” Your response: “You betcha!”
From New Orleans and currently based in Los Angeles, Emily Elhaj is a writer, photographer, and has performed and recorded with Angel Olsen, The Raincoats, Implodes, Sofia Bolt, Anna St. Louis, Vagabon, Hand Habits, and Jess Cornelius. She plays guitar and bass and is generously endorsed by Hofner, Fender, EarthQuaker Devices, & Original Fuzz. Emily runs the label Love Lion which began in 2010 and currently moderates an ongoing collection of conversations with creatives called the Love Lion Interview Series.