Jimi Heslin’s vision was to provide a one-stop center for the musician. Eight years ago he sold the successful music shop “Let’s Jam” to his employees. After steady gigging in the intervening years, Jimi has assembled a team of long-time colleagues to create “The Axe Shop.”
“Everybody goes back many years,” says Jimi, “through many connections.” He continues, “I run a lean and mean operation with three employees doing everything from refinishing to neck resets to fret jobs.” His team of luthiers includes Bob Gerhards, who ran Brian Moore’s custom music shop for 14 years, Rick Mullen, who ran Drome’s Sound in Albany, and Mark Modesto, the repairman at Let’s Jam for 10 years. Mark worked for Steinberger and Jeff Carano managed there while Jeff Babicz was the technician who implemented Ned Steinberger’s designs. In addition to the luthiers, Steve Belizzi serves as the shop’s technician. Jimi describes Steve as “our McGyver, he can fix anything with nothing.”
But the retail store at 421 Violet Avenue in Poughkeepsie is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to the music store, the facility includes the “Lesson Loft,” a repair shop, drum and percussion shop, and recording studio. In addition, The Axe Shop features a factory authorized showroom for the award-winning Babicz Guitars, whose products are endorsed by 70 internationally renowned musicians, including Gregg Allman, Orleans, The Outlaws, The Black Eyed Peas, Foreigner, Todd Rundgren and more. Jimi had seen the “large store business” in the 1980s when he worked at East Coast Music in Danbury.
Jimi also has amassed a collection of over 160 vintage instruments and amps, most of which are on display in “The Vintage Vault.” The vault holds such gems as an 1896 bowl back mandolin, tenor banjos, a 1920s Oahu guitar, 1910 parlor guitar, Gibson B-25N, and several lap steels, including an original Dobro model.
JA: What are your earliest musical influences, your first musical recollections?
JH: I started playing at age 10. I come from the Beatles generation. I also listened to Grand Funk Railroad, Led Zeppelin, and Jethro Tull. As for acoustic musicians, I always enjoyed Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I’ve played in bands my whole life. Most recently I’m playing in “UFB” with Johnny Dell from Night Life.
JA: What instriuments do you play?
JH: I am a guitar player–both electric and acoustic– and singer. I am also an instrument collector–and there’s no telethon for that.
JA: What service does The Axe Shop offer that sets you apart?
JH: We’re local and in addition to everything we stock, if there’s something you want that we don’t have, we’ll get it for you. We can track down almost any brand of instruiment. Besides, we have Kayla, the cutest dog in any music store around.
JA: Ok. I have to ask. Jimi. J.I.M.I. How’d you come to spell your name that way?
JH: Well there were three kids names James in my class. I swapped “James” out for “Jimi” because I was a big Hendrix fan.
The Axe Shop is open 11-6PM Monday through Saturday. A separate entrance to the air conditioned Lesson Loft makes after hours music instruction possible.