The Story of theShop
About Obligato. Bob Gatts has been serving the central Minnesota region since 1979, where he has developed a well-earned reputation for highly skilled, expert workmanship and careful attention to detail. In 2013, Bob relocated his business into the newly remodeled and expanded Obligato Violin and Guitar Shop, a full-service retail and repair shop attached to his home, serving central Minnesota with new and used instruments and accessories to meet any string instrument need.
About the Shop. In the world of strings, “provenance” is the word that describes the chronology of ownership, custody or location of a historical object, such as a valuable violin. Accordingly, we would like to share with you the “provenance” of the many salvaged, rescued, handmade, and donated materials that have made their way into the renovated shop (opened in 2013), and the people who contributed.
Much of the framing and construction was accomplished with 2x6s and 2x4s salvaged from the roof of a local county government building that caved in under heavy snow years ago. (The remainder was purchased from Staples Lumber Yard). Jeff Van V., good friend and freelance carpenter (available for hire), helped with the framing and the roof. The front door is a Victorian door courtesy of a neighbor’s home improvement project, and the green stained glass in the door window came from an old passenger rail car. The diamond windows around the front door were bought from an old hoarder in Pine River. The beautiful Pella bay window in the main shop was salvaged from an insurance throwaway due to hail damage at Laila’s house, and framed in by Jake, who also helped with the floor (as well as framing in the window on the shed so we could even get started on this project). The piazza bricks were salvaged from an old railroad depot. The exterior cedar shingles arrived via good neighbor Ed H. who purchased them at auction and offered them to us at a highly propitious moment (and price!). All the cedar trim was obtained via (officially sanctioned) dumpster diving at 3 am after gigs at Cragun’s over 8 years.
Friend and freelance sign painter Mary Rosenberg painted the “Shop” sign hanging over the front door, and also did the lettering of the sign that is mounted in the front yard visible from the road. The sign in the front yard was an old track lit 1900s era music sign purchased from John T. Jack Olson painted the base layer with green auto paint.
The fresco wall in the front room was artfully executed in the Italian style by Mary and her friend Verna. The side walls in the front room covered with popple cut off this place in 1995 and milled locally by Al Paskewitz. The base wall trim is 12 foot long fir mop boards from an old house in Staples. The trim around the doors and windows is 1880s vintage from an old house in Staples, reconditioned and spliced to fit, compliments of Judy T. The flooring is 1919 maple flooring salvaged from an old schoolhouse nearly half a century ago (acquired as payment for a guitar repair for John T. (For that job alone—which took an entire month to scrape clean, install, and sand, Bob deserves some sort of award for the lengths he has gone to for resourceful, carbon zero construction.)
The marble doorsills and window sills were inspired by our trip to Italy, and cut by Brichacek Granite Works in Motley. Also direct from Italy, the print of the oil painting of Stradivari’s shop by Rinaldi, one of the last 2 prints in stock at the Musée Civico in Cremona. The chandelier, made in Italy, was purchased at the consignment antique store in downtown Brainerd. The string carousel was purchased from Al’s Music at auction.
The café’ booth bench was found in Canova, SD dump around 1966—note the cast iron feet to allow for frequent mopping. The cushion was hand made by Lucio Bavelli, leather worker and upholsterer in Brainerd (see business cards), with the same material from which Laila expertly sewed the curtains. The material came from an upholstery salvage warehouse, H.S. Harris. The pie safe is circa 1880s, from Breckenridge, MN, modified with birch paneling backing cut and milled from the place (the same paneling used for the shelf over the workshop bench). The cigar humidor serving as a display case in the front room is circa 1880s, bartered through indentured servitude to Judy T. at the Old Tyme Trading Post in Motley. The Middle Eastern carpet is a gift to the shop from an Egyptian friend of Laila’s, Mamdouh.
In the main shop, the dark shellacked pine paneling is from old cabins (also salvaged from Craguns). The round wheel window in the shop is a 10 foot white oak board, steam bent into a possible fly wheel, bought at auction in 1975. The step and drawer are from St. Francis School, sold at auction. The stair rail came from an old house in Little Falls. The thick pine counter in the bay window, as well as the paneling in the side room, are milled from a single 42” diameter white pine from this place that succumbed to wind and woodpeckers around 1995. The free standing work bench is the original Bob Gatts’ workbench made from local white pine around 1979. The German made Ulmia workbench was obtained with the help of an artists’ grant from McKnight Foundation via the Five Wings Arts Council. The wall mounted glass cupboard came from Miriam (Mim). The cast iron base adjustable workbench was donated by Bob and Carolyn. The refurbished wainscoting ceiling came from the Red Bull bar in Little Falls when it was remodeled. Joe Kuchinski was the source of the light fixtures in the main room, which came from an old schoolhouse near Sobieski. The light fixtures in the side room were rescued from a dumpster behind the Electric Fetus on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis in 1972.
Many, many friends and neighbors have provided material or moral support for this project in various forms and stages.
We hope this story adds intrigue to your experience today and on the many future occasions we hope to see you in the shop.