About Us

Sound Source in Chico, the birthplace of Mahar's Vintage Guitars

Contact Info

Owner: Chuck Mahar

Phone: 530-570-1525

Email: sales@maharsvintageguitars.com

Location: Chico, California - Butte County in Northern California

Here's Our Story

I’ve spent much of my nearly 50 years involved with music and instruments, picking up the guitar at about 12 years old. I glommed on to my parent’s limited record collection (Jim Croce, Simon & Garfunkel, early Chicago...), leading me to my brother’s stash (Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen), then to the flea markets of Southern New Hampshire to build my own collection.

The flea market filled my musical brain, but also instilled me with the picker’s spirit as I dug through junk to find nuggets that had value greater than the price tags implied.

I never really achieved a high level of guitar skill, and I certainly had no idea what vintage guitars were until well into adulthood, so my love of music pushed me to find a possible career path connected technically with the gear surrounding guitars.

I attended recording school right out of high school and was smitten with the process. The passion ultimately had me migrating west to attend recording school at CSU Chico, which I quickly found out was a top party school with a vibrant music scene.

My intent was to move into the film business, on the audio side.  I spent a summer working in Hollywood, but it had me reflecting on the lifestyle Chico offered. I moved back to Good Old Chico and began doing sound for bands, leasing sound systems in clubs and ultimately opening a music store called Sound Source in 1995 with a band mate and close friend.

We spent the decade between 1995 and 2005 running the store, buying, trading and selling whatever we could get our hands on - including guitars.

In 1998 we attended our first vintage guitar show, which opened my eyes to the possibilities of this niche market. By late 1999 I took the business over and was early on the internet with a decent quality website. I soon found myself shipping guitars all over the planet.

In 2004, a big staff turnover and a deep analysis of the business led me to the conclusion that I could make a living just from vintage and used guitars. By 2005, Sound Source was no longer and Mahar's Vintage Guitars was born. 

The simplification was welcome as my first child was born. By this time I was going to guitar shows nation-wide, flying my guitars in and out with me. The shows were a blast, and the friends I made among the dealers and customers added greatly to the appeal.  Professionally, 2005 to 2009 was a blissful blur. 

The great recession was hard on the business. I felt forced to shift gears again, moving into audio/visual systems integration, something I dipped my toe into in the early 2000’s while running the store.  I am involved in systems integration today as a licensed contractor, operating Tri Path Technology Group, still in my adopted hometown of Chico.

As the AV business grew, my career change allowed me to enjoy guitars without having to churn them to feed my family. I decided for about 10 years to focus on integration and tamp down my desire to fiddle with guitars.

The pandemic put Tri Path on hold, along with nearly everything else.  In the downtime I reconnected with my vintage guitar friends.  They all said that if I found any guitars I should let them know - COVID was driving huge sales.  That was my cue - time to get back into the business I always loved.

My focus will be quality vintage and used guitars, along with the odd bass, concert poster, effects pedal, etc here and there.

Now we have a stealthy location in Chico, adjacent to my contracting business.  We have customers in on an appointment basis and welcome you to reach out.  The shop is a great place to check out the gear on our site.  You will generally have the place to yourself.

These guitars are truly investments, and an investment should be made with eyes wide open.

You’ll see that I am all about documentation of my used and vintage guitars. I feel that this is a problem with the market - dealers sometimes ignore or overlook issues with vintage instruments and pass them on to customers without fully vetting them.  Guitars with repairs, changes, issues, etc are fine, as long as you know before you buy.

I spent years shipping guitars, amps, drums, etc around the globe, so you can trust that I'll handle the items I sell here professionally, insuring that your purchase arrives safe and sound.

That is my mission, to bring quality instruments to the market with transparency and honesty, and have some fun with you while doing it!