Taking Center Stage
Writer / Kara Reibel
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
Center Stage Vintage Guitars owner Kevin Heffernan has been in about 10 bands including The Rockaholics and opened for the Stray Cats. He has sold vintage guitars to famous musicians and famous collectors, but he’s mostly known for his restoration and repair work.
Every guitar, string instrument and piece of memorabilia in the shop has a story, and Heffernan is readily available to enlighten you. Center Stage is filled with retro pieces. It is a guitar player’s paradise. The layout of the shop lends itself to impromptu concerts, and he has two dogs that are his constant companions.
Prior to opening his shop along 10th Street, Heffernan ran his business out of his basement. His website was getting over 150,000 hits per month, and he had more business than he knew what to do with.
“It’s great having a storefront where people can just walk in,” says Heffernan, who started his business after a life-changing event. In yoga, there are postures called “heart openers,” and in 2005, Heffernan experienced a literal heart opener resulting in open heart surgery. “It changed my life,” says Heffernan. “I had an epiphany to do the guitar and repair shop full-time.”
Technically, Heffernan is a luthier, but upon closer inspection, he is an artist. There are repurposed parts and pieces that only someone with immense creativity could dream possible. With his guitar repair designation, he finds himself tinkering and repairing more than just guitars. Any string instrument is fair game.
Custom builds, modifications and restoration are his specialty, so if you have an old guitar or any other string instrument and want to know the possibilities, share it with Heffernan. He’s done work for Lyle Lovett, Carrie Underwood, Saturday Night Live, Zac Brown, Sara Bareilles and Nashville’s Marty Stuart.
Word is out on Heffernan’s abilities. The small networking community of musicians praise his work backstage, which is the best means of advertising he could hope for. The small, unassuming shop on the corner of 10th and Plum Street is a go-to for visiting musicians and a destination for many.
In one instance, Heffernan supplied all of the instruments for a photo shoot for The Band Perry, which he delivered to Union Station where the photos were taken. “I walk in with 5-6 instruments hung all over me.”
A month ago, Heffernan and his wife, who is a nurse at The Spine Center in Carmel, were on the beach in Florida. Heffernan always travels with his mandolin, his favorite, and of course, it is a custom-made piece by yours truly.
“We were laying on the beach, and I said to my wife, ‘That’s Sam Bush, the best mandolin player in the world,’ and she said, ‘No, it isn’t.’ and I replied, ‘If he stops when I say his name, it’s him,’” says Heffernan. It was Sam Bush.
Fortunately for Heffernan, the best female mandolin player in the world, Andra Faye, lives in Rocky Ripple in Indianapolis.
“We love Kevin, and he does incredible work,” says Faye, who plays with Scott Ballantine. “He is our go-to for any restoration.”
Center Stage Vintage Guitars is located at 998 S. 10th St., just south of downtown Noblesville. Visit CenterStageVintageGuitars.com.