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Northern Star

Five years ago, former Dogs D’Amour bassist Steven James opened his own store in

Middlesbrough, near to his home town of Saltburn by the Sea. Adam Savage caught up with store manager Anthony Sawdon to see how far the business has moved forward…

retailers – before opening their shop – will have harboured dreams of chart success and playing to capacity crowds, when in reality, the closest most have got to that is ‘headlining’ the local village fete. Steven James, founder of Steven James


Guitars in Middlesbrough came closer to superstardom than most though, having been bass player with Dogs D’Amour – touring the world extensively – from 1986 to 1992. But after all that – and following an

eight-year stint as manager of the guitar department of Guitar Amp and Keyboard in Brighton – he then decided to move back up to Teesside and open a music shop. “I decided to return to my home town and create the kind of music shop that I would have wanted to visit and hang out in when I was a professional musician,” a statement from James reads on the store’s website. So with the question of how the shop

came to be answered, I spoke to store manager Anthony Sawdon to see how the store has progressed since it opened just over five years ago. “Steve was originally from nearby

Saltburn by the Sea and he felt the area didn’t offer much for local musicians,” says Sawdon. “He had always planned to

50 February 2012

High-end guitars is not an easy market to be in and now you really need to

know you’re products. Anthony Sawdon

o become a successful MI dealer, it certainly helps to have a real passion for making music. Many

return to his roots and he felt the time was right to come home.” “I was Sound Control store

manager at the Stockton on Tees branch for five years and I joined Steven James as manager in August last year. In the last six months we’ve taken on Taylor Guitars and we’ve just received our first stock from Gibson and Epiphone.” Sawdon was actually UK product specialist for Korg and Vox when he first realised the potential of the store. In fact, he was so impressed that he became keen to be part of the project while still in his previous role. “I didn’t want to leave my job when I

first saw the shop, but the offering of stock for the relatively small area is phenomenal and I remember being amazed by the great vibe,” he reveals. “We always let customers try out the

instruments, we’re great with beginners, recommend teachers, give as much help as we can, don’t hassle people to buy, give honest advice and make sure people go away happy.” Sawdon’s past perhaps gives him a distinct advantage over other store managers. Not only did he spend five years doing a similar job at a branch of a major retail chain – before its untimely demise – his on-the-road experience visiting countless shops allowed him to

Sawdon was so blown away by the store’s potential when visiting as a product specialist for Korg that soon after he became part of the work force.

pick up ideas of what made some stores great, but also avoid the mistakes that have blighted the less-than-impressive stores out there. “I used to see stores up and down the

country and wonder how they’re surviving,” states Sawdon. “They simply weren’t being helpful to their customers and it really came across. “But recently, some really good stores

have gone, unfortunately. High-end guitars is not an easy market to be in and now you really need to know your products. Customers’ disposable income is harder earned than ever. But all of our stock is bought outright so we don’t have to worry as much about cash and we know that we can pay the bills.” Despite mentioning end users’

reluctance to spend of late, Sawdon is

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