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article imageThe Meteor Guitar Gallery is open and amped Special

By Kay Mathews     Jul 11, 2014 in Business
Bentonville - For many decades, untold numbers of people were entertained within the walls of the venerable Meteor Theater. Now a local entrepreneur, who turned his passion into a rocking business, is restoring the building and featuring new and vintage guitars.
Generations of Bentonville, Arkansas residents have spent countless hours in The Meteor Theater, or The Plaza Theater as it was called by 1940 – a few decades before I came on the scene. When the theater opened in 1927, the black and white silent movie Venus of Venice was shown. A grand pipe organ was constructed for The Meteor because it was thought that “theater goers loved good music.”
Renamed The Plaza Theater by 1940, the venerable venue continued showing feature films until the 1980s rolled in. It was “the” place to go in, what was then, the small town of Bentonville. Friends, young and old, met at The Plaza and grabbed popcorn, giant pickles and soda before making their way down the sticky floor to seats in front of enormous ceiling to stage-floor curtains (crimson-maroon in color, if memory serves). On and off for a number of years thereafter, a few small businesses occupied the front of the building while the main auditorium, balcony, and stage languished.
Fast-forward to 2014. Leslie Key and his family, wife Alanna, and their two sons, Caleb, 16, and Mason, 14, are bringing lovers of good music back into the theater. Key calls it “our dream place.” Key credits his wife for making this dream come true. Not that long ago, Key did not know how to play a guitar. He wanted to learn, but it was hard for a left-handed person to find an instrument. “Alanna kept encouraging me to look for a guitar and learn how to play,” said Key. “When I did, the passion was unleashed and it has led us to The Meteor.”
Mason  Alanna  Leslie and Caleb Key at Meteor Guitar Gallery.  Bentonville  Ark.  June 2014.
Mason, Alanna, Leslie and Caleb Key at Meteor Guitar Gallery. Bentonville, Ark. June 2014.
Rather than a pipe organ, visitors to Meteor Guitar Gallery will find hundreds of new and vintage guitars and amplifiers, as well as other instruments and accessories. Many of the pieces are for sale, while others will be showcased in the museum. Key is converting the balcony into a music history museum that will also feature items from the historic theater. While remodeling the theater, Key found a movie ticket from 1950. That is just one of hundreds of items visitors to the museum will see upon its completion.
Key said that many of the items customers and visitors will see come from the inventory of the Fly-By-Night Music store in Neosho, Mo. Key bought the collection from Dave Crocker, a veteran of the vintage guitar world. Crocker is one of the 4 Amigos who produce 4 Amigos Guitar Shows.
As I toured the front retail and gallery areas, this guitar-novice was awe-struck by the impressive collection. The beautifully crafted, colorful, and simply gorgeous instruments are from brands like Fender, Gibson, Tokai, Danelectro, Dean, and Washburn.
Guitars at Meteor Guitar Gallery.  Bentonville  Ark.  June 2014
Guitars at Meteor Guitar Gallery. Bentonville, Ark. June 2014
Guitars at Meteor Guitar Gallery.  Bentonville  Ark.  June 2014
Guitars at Meteor Guitar Gallery. Bentonville, Ark. June 2014
Guitars at Meteor Guitar Gallery.  Bentonville  Ark.  June 2014
Guitars at Meteor Guitar Gallery. Bentonville, Ark. June 2014
After taking the photo above, and noticing the painting called “Beatle Heads,” I asked Key about the artwork. Key said that local painters and sculptors have been invited to display their work in the store. Coincidentally, one of those artists, Paula Bonacker, entered the store as Key and I were finishing our conversation. Bonacker, the creator of “Beatle Heads,” graciously agreed to be photographed and posed by “John 11:35” and held the newest painting she is displaying at The Meteor, “Willie’s Trigger.”
Paula Bonacker with her creations  Willie s Trigger  and  John 11:35  at Meteor Guitar Gallery.  Ben...
Paula Bonacker with her creations "Willie's Trigger" and "John 11:35" at Meteor Guitar Gallery. Bentonville, Ark. June 2014
The auditorium will be converted into a music venue featuring local musicians, impromptu jam sessions, a coffee bar and couches for hanging-out. Key, with a big smile on his face, said that some big-name bands have been invited to perform at Meteor Guitar Gallery, but declined to say who had accepted invitations.
Auditorium of the Meteor Guitar Gallery that will feature a stage  jam sessions  concerts  a coffee ...
Auditorium of the Meteor Guitar Gallery that will feature a stage, jam sessions, concerts, a coffee bar, and a balcony museum after it is restored. Bentonville, Arkansas
Key sees musicians, aficionados of great craftsmanship, and those who have many wonderful memories associated with the theater making Meteor Guitar Gallery Bentonville’s favorite place to hang-out.
New merchandise and music history items are making their way into The Meteor on a regular basis. To keep up with the building restoration and new additions, check Meteor Guitar Gallery’s Facebook page, call (479) 268-1500, or, better yet, drop by 128 W. Central Avenue in downtown Bentonville and experience The Meteor for yourself.
Entrance to Meteor Guitar Gallery.  Bentonville  Arkansas
Entrance to Meteor Guitar Gallery. Bentonville, Arkansas
More about Meteor Guitar Gallery, Bentonville, Arkansas, Music, Guitars
 
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