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Janis picked a lifetime trade with guitar repair
Janis Music owner George Janis works on cleaning up the frets on a Fender Telecaster that was brought in for service. Janis started managing the facility after the death of his father, and has watched it grow with the addition of a full assortment of services that includes instrument and some electronic equipment repair as well as the store’s music lessons. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin
Getting to hang out after school in his parents’ music store wasn’t something that George Janis enjoyed doing as a 5-year-old.

Trained early in his life on a piano, it wouldn’t be until he was a Manteca High School student that Janis would attempt to master the intricacies of playing the guitar. He often would stare through the lesson room window and try to mimic what he heard and what he saw in his brother’s fingerwork on one of the shop guitars at Janis Music that has been in the same location in the 100 block of East Yosemite Avenue since 1963.

 While he had performed in a band that was essentially comprised of two families, the real early love of Janis’ life was electronics. It gave him the opportunity to take classes at Manteca High that allowed him to visit the retirement homes in the community and search for radios and televisions that weren’t working properly and bring them back for some tinkering and repair work.

“While we were all grateful that we got the chance to get out into the community for sometimes as long as two hours during school, what we loved was taking the cover off of something and trying to figure out what was wrong and how it can be made right again with your own hands,” Janis said. “And we were working with seniors at the same time, so it was great to see the look on their face when you returned with a working product that you fixed yourself.”

As the years progressed, and the repair work and interest in electronics continued, Janis began to notice that some of the console cassette players that would normally cost $400 were selling for $89.95. They were full of plastic components and other low-quality materials that would cut the shelf-life of the products and force him to focus on other things that he could likely repair.

Rather than dwelling on the shoddy construction of the products at the time, Janis used the opportunity to learn how to replace the strings on certain instruments and focused on how to make repairs that certain businesses – like the music megastores – didn’t offer.

Over the years he has developed a reputation as a skilled instrument technician. He discovered a niche that helps retain the customers as well as those who purchased instruments at places like Guitar Center that are fed-up with the standard line of “we don’t do that kind of repair work here,” forcing them to look elsewhere and eventually ending up at 138 W. Yosemite Avenue – the 47-year old home of Janis Music.

And while most business owners tend to let other people do the work for them later in their lives, Janis has actually taken on a more hands-on approach to the business in recent years – making him unable to take the long fishing trips that once loved so dearly. Even the store’s hours were configured to allow him to spend some time on the Stanislaus River with his favorite fly rod and reel before heading home at 10 a.m., changing clothes, and coming into work for the day. They haven’t changed.

“There are over 7,000 independent music retailers in the United States and only 8,000 when you add the chain stores that have stayed afloat,” Janis said. “We’re just happy that we’ve been able to stay in business and remain a member of those independen