It’s off-the-wall, larger than life, and more than a bit audacious.
At the south end of Petaluma Boulevard, a huge mural depicts a large, greenish space alien, zapping a hapless man holding a guitar. Unexpected and out-of-the-ordinary, the mural – adorning the exterior of Petaluma’s newest guitar store - definitely grabs your attention.
That’s the whole point of the alien, and of Silly Strings Guitar Store.
A family run music shop focused primarily on heavy metal musicians and their big, bold instruments, the brand new business is the passion project of owners Billy and Sarina Garoutte. While other music stores in the area only dabble in niche heavy metal brands, Silly Strings has fully embraced “metal-heads” and their specific rock-and-roll needs.
The day I visited Silly Strings and was greeted by the Garouttes - an exercise in dichotomy, as Billy stands over 6 feet tall and Sarina barely pushes 5 feet - the two were sitting just inside the door, in a nicely decorated hang-out area, chatting with friends from out of town. The topic was an upcoming, in-store appearance by Gary Holt, the lead songwriter and guitarist for Bay Area metal band Exodus, and international act Slayer. Billy Garoutte has known Holt for years, and enlisted him to come and present a free guitar clinic at Silly Strings on January 14.
When asked what fans can expect at the event, Holt said, “The secrets of life, the truth about aliens, and how to print your own money. We may even play a little guitar too, as we solve world hunger and balance the national budget through better riffage.”
Please note: I cannot personally guarantee the accuracy of Holt’s statements. But it does sound like a blast.
During my visit, a live performance by Judas Priest emanates from a large television screen. Billy and Sarina’s son K.K., a recent high school graduate, mans the cash register as Billy, Sarina and I chat. Sarina explains that after the death of her father, the family was looking for a change.
Then iving in San Leandro, Sarina was an interior decorator - which explains the chic interior of the store - as well as a Human Resources developer. Billy worked in construction. Both had grown weary of the daily grind, and the East Bay, and they started looking for new digs.
“We were looking around the Bay Area for a place where we could start something new,” Sarina explains. “A friend mentioned that Petaluma has a great music scene, and we had never even really heard of it!”
But after visiting Petaluma and looking around, they fell in love with the town, and last May, they moved here. Facing those iconic questions of what do to in the second act of their lives, Sarina knew it might have something to do with guitars, and one day, she flat out asked Billy the question.
“Do you want to open a guitar shop?”
The rest is history.
Silly Strings opened to the public on what is pretty much the most “heavy metal” day of the year - Halloween. Nearly two months later, the biggest challenge has been in letting Sonoma County know that Silly Strings is open for business, and ready to assist with all heavy metal needs.
Silly Strings Guitar Shop
Location: 824 Petaluma Boulevard South
Hours: Open Wednesday -Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Mondays by appointment.
Upcoming events: Meet and greet with Gary Holt of Slayer on Sunday, January 14, 3 p.m. Free.
Information: Call (707) 559-3722 or visit SillyStringsGuitars.com