Michael Tierney never knew he would end up in the Germantown neighborhood with his guitar repair business. But it has been just the right fit.
Tierney started Tierney Guitarsin 2015 after buying and renovating a home and a carriage house in the neighborhood.
Germantown, and all of the Northwest Philadelphia neighborhoods are known for their robust roster of local musicians in history, including greats like experimental jazz artist Sun-Ra and jazz bagpipe player Rufus Harley. Tierney relies on this community, and much of his business is built on word of mouth through this networking.
“I feel like if people say to me, I’m trying to do this thing, just tell people about it. Generally the ball will get rolling. I feel like it’s really easy to network here (Philadelphia) if you talk to people. It’s got such a small town vibe,” Tierney said. Tierney grew up in North Wales, and trained in industrial design at the Art Institute.
Tierney and Jeff Podlogar, one of the owners of Germantown Espresso Bar, moved into the area together, and Tierney said although the space took a lot of work, it was everything he could imagine for his small business.
“From day one, it was positive,” said Tierney. “Everybody in the neighborhood was glad someone was moving in and working on the space.”
“My neighbor Marcus saw me putting a basement window in, and I didn’t know what I was doing,” Tierney continued. “He basically did it for me, and told me I’m just going to teach you how to do this.”
Tierney said the house Marcus is in was passed down two generations from his grandparents. Many of his neighbors have been on the block for decades.
“They know I do stuff, so if they have something like a ceiling fan that needs hung or an outlet that doesn’t work, I’ll go do that when I’m slow,” said Tierney.
He calls himself a luthier, an old-fashioned term for a maker of stringed instruments, and most of his work focuses on repairs of electric and acoustic guitars and other custom work. Randy Scott Carroll, a local musician whose duet with another Germantown resident Birdie Busch, is highlighted above, is just one of his clients.
Tierney considers the local music scene very supportive and hyper-inclusive. He didn’t know much about Germantown before he moved in, and feels very lucky about the community he has found here.
“I think everybody gets granted the benefit of the doubt that they’re being genuine,” Tierney said about a local open mic.
“It’s kind of come-as-you-are. Okay, you’re bringing something to the table. There are kids from Covenant House and 60-year-old guys that like playing folk jams at the Mermaid Inn and everything in between. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely encouraging.”