VALDOSTA -- Rutland Music reopened for business in downtown Valdosta this week, almost exactly one year to the day after a fire forced the store to temporarily relocate.

"The fire was on Feb. 7, 2001, and after extensive remodeling, we're back," said Pat Rutland, partner in the music store with his brothers, Bob and Riley.

Rutland said the business operated from a warehouse in Remerton while the building at 203 W. Central Ave. was being remodeled and repaired.

The fire broke out in a warehouse at the back of the business, and smoke did extensive damage to the musical instruments and other inventory in the main building. Rutland said he still doesn't have a complete estimate of the company's total losses.

Rutland Music first opened on Valley Street downtown in 1963 and moved to the Central Avenue location in 1967. The store carries an extensive line of musical instruments and equipment, including guitars, drum sets, keyboards, and sound systems, in addition to a large selection of accessories.

The brothers also run Rutland Music Low Voltage, which installs sound systems and intercom systems, with clients ranging from schools and churches to the Valdosta-Lowndes County Conference Center and Moody Air Force Base.

The two divisions employ a total of 11 staff members and technicians, including brother Bert Rutland, the Lake Park police chief, who is involved in the business as a certified Baldwin technician.

Pat Rutland, who holds a degree in music from Troy State University, displays a great deal of passion when he talks about the unique, higher end products the store carries, including a number of handmade guitars.

"We are one of only 18 dealers in the world who carry Master Luthier Dana Bourgeois acoustic guitars. I currently have five in stock," said Rutland.

Although comparable in price to some of the manufactured guitars the store carries, Rutland said the quality and difference is discernible. One example he gives of what makes the handmade guitars so unique is that they are "hand-lacquered with 11 to 15 coats and hand-buffed, where the manufactured versions are covered with one or two coats of a polyester finish."

Bourgeois is one of only a handful of Master Luthiers, or hand-built guitar makers, in the country, according to Rutland, and his product is in such demand, it can take up to two years to get one of his guitars after placing an order.

Rutland said it's great to be back in downtown Valdosta, and the store is still in the process of transferring its merchandise back from the warehouse in Remerton. "We were working out of boxes, and our customers couldn't see the product, but everyone was very supportive."

Rutland Music is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

To contact reporter Kay Harris, please call 244-3400, ext. 280.

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