Ukulele Lover Turns His Passion Into New Shop

Tyler Gilman, owner of The Ukulele Store, celebrates his shop's opening with a kanikapila from 4 to 6 p.m. today (June 3). NICOLE KATO PHOTO

Tyler Gilman, owner of The Ukulele Store, celebrates his shop’s opening with a kanikapila from 4 to 6 p.m. today (June 3). NICOLE KATO PHOTO

Waikiki Beach Walk has welcomed a new tenant to the fold in The Ukulele Store. Owned and operated by Tyler Gilman, the establishment is an extension of his love for the instrument.

“I started playing the ukulele pretty early,” he recalls. “I have a picture of me and my calabash cousin playing our ukuleles when we couldn’t be more than 4 or 5 years old.”

But his fascination didn’t take complete control until he returned home from college and started living and working in Waikiki. He landed a job in an ukulele store and found the entire process fascinating.

“I wanted to know the builders and learn about how they were made and the wood and the construction process, and why they all sound different, what makes them special,” he says.

A quick scan across The Ukulele Store’s interior, and you’ll find yourself immersed in the ukulele and all its variations. Dozens of instruments line the walls, along with vinyls of The Doors, Michael Jackson, and a holiday album by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. The Ukulele Store also carries guitars, basses, lap steel guitars, CDs, books, handmade Hawaiian crafts and ukulele-related accessories. It also offers $99 beginner sets that include an ukulele, soft case, electronic tuner and instruction booklet, and Gilman holds private lessons, appraisals and more.

The store as a whole is something a little different in Gilman’s eyes — something he attributes to his years as a musician.

“It changes the way that I approach instrument selection,” he says. “The way musicians pick instruments is different than the way the average business person does. I’m concerned about tone and playability.”

All models in The Ukulele Store are instruments hand-picked by Gilman, and he takes pride in knowing each piece (even ones made by the same manufacturer) are different in their own way.

“Each one has its own voice, its own tone, and its own degree of playability,” he explains. “All of Hawaii’s manufacturers are very skilled, and all of them are passionate about what they do.”

In addition to the inventory along the walls and on shelves, Gilman also offers free daily lessons (at 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.) that are open to the public. The introductory lessons covers instrument basics and participants will be able to play simple songs such as Happy Birthday or You Are My Sunshine by the end of class.

“The point is that we want people to enjoy themselves and have a positive and fun experience,” adds Gilman. “The ukulele has made my life wonderful, and I want everyone to experience that joy.”

Gilman commemorates the grand opening of his Waikiki store with a celebration today (June 3) from 4 to 6 p.m. The event features music by Herb Ohta, Jr. and Ohta-san, as well as home-cooked Hawaiian food and drinks. The Ukulele Store is located at 226 Lewers St. on the second floor. For more information, call 888-5469 or find it on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.