SARATOGA SPRINGS — A youthful Brian Eno, his face aglow with vibrance and wonder bumps jackets with Barbara Streisand draped in a Superman T-Shirt and sporting a pair of tube sox. Two rows over, Peter, Paul and Mary share smiles in front of a brick wall in Greenwich Village marking their debut, circa-1962. Next to them, the Clash scowl alongside a brick alleyway of north London’s Camden Market marking their debut, circa-1976. A collection of string instruments are being released from their protective casings a few yards away. Memories of Matt McCabe, the previous longtime occupant of this space, permeate the room.
“I’m a violin maker by trade,” explains Thomas Dunn. “Six generations of violin making is where I come from so there are a lot of traditions here: the oldest family of violin makers in the world, being able to carry on a Saratoga tradition, and honoring Matt’s memory. That’s something that’s cool for both of us.”
That “us” is Thomas Dunn and Jason Planitzer. The two men have embarked on a collaborative effort to open a new shop at 480 Broadway, located next to City Hall and the Saratoga Music Hall in the space previously occupied by Saratoga Guitar.
Dunn’s expertise is musical instruments. Planitzer’s is in vinyl records. “We were both looking for a space, met, liked each other’s vibe and thought: maybe we could do something together. So, we decided to share this space and make this kind of the music center of Saratoga,” Dunn says.
They are hoping to open the shop as early as this weekend. Once fully operational, it will include new and used instruments for sale for players, musical instrument lessons, instrument repair and restoration work and a full line of accessories – from strings and picks, to pedals and more.
For music fans and vinyl collectors, the store will also feature a collection of albums.
“The stars aligned, and we are able to carry on the tradition,” says Planitzer, originally from Pittsburgh and relocated to upstate with his wife in January after having lived in Brooklyn for 15 years.
“I’ve collected since I was in college, that’s 20 years now, and during the pandemic my collection got a little out of hand,” he says with a laugh. “It grew exponentially.”
Planitzer said he hopes to start with 2,000 to 3,000 mostly used records. An already existing relationship with music distributors will enable him to carry some new vinyl as well. “We will buy, we will sell, we will trade. Same as with the guitars and the stringed instruments,” he says.
Despite the ever-changing soundscape of technologies over the previous decades, there remains and indeed is growing a market of people who love vinyl records. In 2021, a resurgence in vinyl records continued for the 15th consecutive year, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. And new vinyl revenues grew 61% to $1 billion over the past calendar year – having last exceeded that $1 billion mark back in 1986, according to an article published by Variety in March that is titled: Vinyl Sales Soar.
“I work in film and television, I’m a location scout; I read scripts and then go find the places where they film. That’s what I did in New York City for the past 14 years and now more and more film work is coming upstate – shooting in Schenectady, Troy, in Albany,” Planitzer says. He calls his part of the collaboration with Dunn: Off-Track Records. “This is something I can do in addition to film work, much as I did in Brooklyn. At that time, I worked at a record shop - it’s called Record Grouch – and that was a blast. I love getting music from a shop. I get a lot of music online now, and I think we all do, but there’s nothing like going into a shop.”
6th Generation Violin
Dunn is carrying on the traditions of the Frirsz family of luthiers who began making violins in the mid-1800s. Originally from Hungary, they are known as the oldest family of violin makers in the world, spanning five generations. Fourth generation family member Maximilian relocated to North America and eventually set up a shop in midtown Manhattan where he became known as one of the foremost luthiers and restorers in the country. Max’s son, Nicholas, took over the business in the 1980s and relocated to Saratoga Springs in the ‘90s.
When he was a teenager, Dunn began working with fifth-generation master Nicholas Frirsz on small repairs and learning how to make violins. In 2011 Dunn became Frirsz full apprentice. Dunn calls his segment of the collaborative space Sixth Generation Violin - carrying on the family methods, traditions, and secrets of violin making.
“Those connections we built up over six generations,” Dunn says. “And we will have a range of new and used instruments for sale, from high-end instruments of unique boutique makers and luthiers, custom-made, to student rentals – violins, cellos, guitars, ukuleles, fretted instruments.”
A room where musical lessons will be offered is being developed in the back of the store, and Dunn says an instructor will include someone who formerly worked for Matt McCabe.
The men say they aim to provide a personal touch and human care for the community of music lovers and practitioners in the region.
“We’re excited to be here and hope to be a part of the Saratoga music community for years to come,” Dunn said.
Planitzer and Dunn say they hope to open this weekend and plan to be open most weekdays during regular business hours and weekends from noon to 5. For more information about Sixth Generation Violin and Off-Track Records, visit the store at 480 Broadway, or call 518-893-9188.