Gibson Garage London Opening

A Union Jack-painted leather Chesterfield sofa under a huge Gibson logo hung from the ceiling welcomes you to Gibson Garage London as you’re walking under a conveyor belt holding Les Pauls, SGs, and Flying Vs above your head.

Gibson Garage London Opening
Gibson Garage London Opening - Metalhead Community Magazine.

It’s a sunny but cold Saturday morning here in London. 24th of February has a different meaning for most people like me since two years ago on this day, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ruined it forever for me, for my family, and for millions of others like us. So naturally, for weeks, I have been looking for something to distract me on that day, and a couple of weeks ago, I saw that Gibson, my favourite guitar brand, announced that they are opening their first-ever overseas Gibson Garage here in London, on 24th of February. 

The first Gibson Garage was opened in Nashville, Tennessee and it is the brainchild of Mark Agnesi, director of brand experience for Gibson. On my way to the Garage, I was listening to the Everyone Loves Guitar podcast’s episode with him (highly recommended) where he was talking about how they opened the first Gibson Garage in Nashville and how excited he was to open the second one in London. 

Walk This Way sticker on the pavement.

As I got closer to the location I started noticing Flying V-shaped road signs on the sidewalk, showing the way to the store which grew my anticipation. I kept following those signs and before too long I saw the Gibson Garage London, and the line of people waiting to get in. I took my place behind the queue while staring at the guitars on display. I should mention that I am one of those people who hates waiting in lines, but here, captivating glimpses of guitars adorning the windows kept the wait tolerable and before I got bored it was my turn to enter the store.

View from the outside

A Union Jack-painted leather Chesterfield sofa under a huge Gibson logo hung from the ceiling welcomes you to Gibson Garage London as you’re walking under a conveyor belt holding Les Pauls, SGs, and Flying Vs above your head. “This is how the guitars are being finished at the factory,” says Mark Agnesi in Gibson TV’s The Scene: Gibson Garage London episode when describing it. Getting familiarised with Mark Agnesi’s background helps in understanding the Garage’s genesis. After all, he is the one who designed it from the ground up. In the podcast I was listening to on my way here, Mark mentions his favourite guitarists are “Eddie (Van Halen), Keith (Richards), Tom (Petty) and Mike (Campbell)”. Simple bluesy classic rock, with a touch of Americana and 80s Metal, could help describe the aesthetics of the space. 

Gibson logo on the ceiling

I started walking around the store counterclockwise, and passed by the checkout section while staring at the guitars moving on top of me (the conveyor belt), I came across the leach section for babies and kids. As I am writing this, I regret not buying Daddy’s Little Rocker T-shirt for my son, well, next time…

On the far left-hand side of Gibson Garage London, there’s a section with acoustic guitars. In the center of the room, a huge leather ottoman provides a place to sit down and enjoy playing an aged sunburst Gibson J200 acoustic. In every section of the store, decor, and Merch follow the style of instruments on display, and in the acoustic fashion, Gibson hummingbird embroidered western shirts and T-shirts were accompanying the acoustic guitars. 

Gibson Store London view

In the next little room, there are Les Pauls, SGs, Flying Vs, ESs, and some bass guitars with guitar accessory shelves and stairs to floor -1. I see a ‘58 Korina Flying V in this room and try to get a closer look as I’m walking by an 8 maybe 9-year-old kid with Mohawk hair, who plugged an Explorer into a Mesa Boogie amp, playing RATM’s Killing in the name on riff. 

Some Iconic Gibson Guitars

After drooling over the guitars, I walk back to the Chesterfield sofa across the entrance and notice that there are original prototypes of signature guitars such as Tony Iommi’s Monkey SG and Kirk Hammett’s blacked-out Les Paul Custom on display on either side of the couch. In the next two rooms, there are Murphy Lab aged guitars and a build-your-own guitar section where you can choose your wood with the grain of your choice, finish, mechanics, electronics, and all the details to make a custom guitar of your own. There are lots of other Merch on this floor but I want to leave shopping to the last, and want to explore more of the store, so I walk towards the stairway as I lock eyes with Mark Agnesi. I go over and tell him what a cool job he has done with this space. He is very nice in person, says thank you, and we keep chatting a little bit more, then I say that I don’t want to hold him as he probably wants to greet everyone and I make my way downstairs.

Gibson Gallery

The stairway is labelled as Gibson Gallery and it’s full of rock n roll celebrity photos shot by Gered Mankowitz. It’s always cool to see the original prints of photos you have known all your life, so I take a good look at each of them before entering the underground.

Gibson Cases welcomes you as you walk off the stairwell. Past the case shop, there is a big room with a live music stage, Epiphone electrics, acoustics, and bass guitars. 

I have been on the hunt for some very particular epiphone guitars and there are still some on my list. Recently I got an early 2000s Korean-made Korina Flying V and Black J-200, and I was eager to see the differences between the new ones and mine. After checking out dozens of guitars, I walk by the stage and enter the Kramer section. This room is UV-lit, the walls are made of cassettes, and the carpeting is from a bowling alley. With a Pac-Man game in the corner and Kramer’s neon-colored Super starts and pointy guitars, this room is an 80s aesthetic heaven. 

As I finish my walk downstairs, I head back to the first floor to check out the Merch (and more guitars) I come across Mark Agnesi again and ask him about another one of my wish lists Epiphone guitar, Rivoli bass, an are they considering reissuing them. He tells me that he loves those guitars and in fact, he has a 60s one. He said that the closest thing to it is a Jack Cassidy and it’s doing very well, and they will release a fretless Jack Cassidy in spring, so they might look into releasing a Rivoli after that. I make my way upstairs and while staring at the conveyor belt a staff member asks if I wanna take a closer look at Kirk Hammett’s Les Paul Custom model (Hell yeah!). While he is showing me the guitar we start talking about how it feels to work in a place like this. He was as excited as I was about being here, around these instruments, and around people who share a similar taste and interest. There’s nothing like spending time with your tribe. 

Gibson store view

After thanking the staff member for letting me take a closer look at the guitar I made my way to the apparel section. As I was looking around I remembered that on a recent trip to Istanbul, I was having lunch while a group of people took their seats at the table next to me and one of them was wearing a Gibson baseball cap, and I immediately had a sense that he liked rock n roll music, and probably playing guitar. On one of the selves, I saw a similar cap and got it for myself. Feeling satisfied with my visit to the store, I made my way to the checkout desk and got a little Gibson headstock pin on the way. We joked around with the staff at the register as I was paying and they told me that there were a few little extras in the bag while handing me a black Gibson garage London bag with my purchase. I reach into the bag and see that there is free a tote bag, a bottle of water, a tin box of guitar picks, and an umbrella with the stuff I purchased. 

Gibson store London, outside view.

I remember having a grin on my face as I walked outside. I was delighted to come and explore the store, to see, and play the instruments, and talking to staff and Mark Agnesi added a personal touch to the experience. I highly recommend every Gibson lover to go and check a Gibson Garage if they ever get a chance, and if you go to the one in London, you might see me drooling over guitars as I feel like I want to visit this place every day.