Ryan Schroeyens of The PA Shop and London Guitars chats about passion, family business and why guitars should be an offline acquisition
Photo: Ryan Schroeyens
RYAN SCHROEYENS, 36, is president of sales at The PA Shop and its newer sibling, London Guitars. He is but one family member, among many, running a growing collection of companies that sell guitars, rent and sell AV equipment and run a recording studio. They also produce live events and supply production services to a collection of bands across the country.
His father, Ron, founded the company in 1981. Father and sons–Ryan and Kyle–all went to Clarke Road Secondary School.
Ryan is married to Lena. They have a yellow lab, Zoey. When not working (“which is very rare,” he says), he enjoys cottage life, along with golfing, skiing and cooking. He plays piano, writes songs and is learning to play guitar.
How did your family get into the sound and music business?
My father learned bass guitar and started a band in high school, going on to play in several bands that toured around Ontario in the ‘70s while renting out concert lighting systems from my grandparent’s basement. After meeting my mother in 1979, he opened a sound and lighting shop on Adelaide Street, then moved it to First Street and finally to the building at 46 Charterhouse Crescent, where I work today. Creating The PA Shop was a way for my father to earn a living in the industry that was his greatest passion: music.
What are your earliest memories of the business?
My earliest memories are running around the 46 Charterhouse building in my very young years learning as much as I could from everyone. I was there because both my parents worked in the business at that time. At 10, I remember learning how to build lighting dimmers and controllers that my father was building and selling under a brand that was named after me at the time.
How does your family split up the work?
My father and Kyle work in the new production facility in Dorchester, designing, booking and packing shows and then going on the road to create them all over Canada. They have their own team and provide solutions for many concerts, festivals and corporate clients. My mother, Annette, and I are in the building at 46 Charterhouse. Together with our general manager, Dylan Gray, we have turned the building into a creator’s dream, one that can create solutions and positive results for many people. Within this facility we have PA Shop sales, rentals, design and installation, service and repair. We have London Guitars and also Charterhouse Studios, a full commercial recording studio with award-winning producers and albums that have come out of it.
How quickly does today’s technology need to be replaced?
Most of the products we carry can last well over a decade. But like many things that have gone digital, the technology is changing every one to two years.
What prompted you to launch London Guitars last year?
London Guitars is a brainchild of Boris Novosel, Steven ‘Bungie’ Kovacs and me. We’ve worked together for many years. Without knowing it, all three of us had always wanted to have a guitar store. Boris and Bungie wanted to create a boutique-style store where you received great customer service from real musicians who are passionate and professional. One day we got together and decided we all felt the same way. Seven months later, on September 16, 2016, we opened London Guitars.
Do you compete on price or selection or something else?
Our formula is simple: We are a really cool guitar store experience, run by world-touring, story-telling guitar techs, stocking professional gear that people want at all the right prices. But most importantly, we care about the people who support us.
Do most guitar players know what they want when they walk in?
Some do, some don’t, but that’s the great thing about London Guitars. Because the place is run by guitar techs that tour with the likes of the Barenaked Ladies, Tom Cochrane and others, they make sure that we have everything you would need.
How significant are your online sales? Do people buy guitars online?
People do buy guitars and many other items online, but guitars are a very personal item. The only way to know if a guitar neck is going to fit into your hand right, if the overall guitar size and weight is right or if the setup is right is to come in and just play. We want you to play through any amp, any pedal and build a sound that inspires you and helps you to write that next big hit or play a cool tune at the cottage for family and friends.
Do you deal in rare, collector’s guitars?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, just last month we picked up a bass that belonged to Getty Lee from Rush. We also have a Marshall amp head from Our Lady Peace’s Mike Turner and lots of the main guitar rig that Jeff Healy toured with, including the gigs he played with Stevie Ray Vaughn. Currently, our oldest guitar in the store is from 1946, and the oldest amp we have had in sold last month. It was from 1949.
In what areas do you expect the company to grow in the next five years?
We expect to grow the entire facility and all its companies together to become a major resource for everyone in the music and entertainment industry, along with people and companies that need a reliable source for AV and lighting equipment. Interview by Christopher Clark