Axe men


October 1, 2021

Nick Plesz strings success at a Charlotte guitar-repair shop with a rockin’ reputation.  

story and photos by John Gessner

There are an estimated 16 million guitar players in the U.S., and, as with many passions, you can’t just have one. Eventually, those guitars need repairs and servicing, creating an opportunity for Nick Plesz, owner of NC Guitar Works near Charlotte’s Camp North End, who is just as passionate about repairing guitars as his customers are about playing them.

“[We] literally have over 200 guitars in our shop constantly for repairs. I don’t think anybody has that much work across the nation,” says Plesz, 47. 

Plesz moved from Pittsburgh to Charlotte in 1998 to start a homebuilding company with his brother, Chris, who had come to North Carolina three years earlier. In 2004, the business was hired to construct a guitar-repair shop in a warehouse. Plesz took on the project and asked for his payment to be instructions on how to build a guitar. Before his own instrument was completed, the client, Landau Guitar of Harrisburg in Cabarrus County, offered Plesz a job. He spent the next several years learning the business, and in May 2012 he bought the company and renamed it NC Guitar Works.

Plesz’s company has thrived during the pandemic, with business doubling over the last 18 months. “We used to be busy with 80 to 100 instruments in the shop. We have been hitting over 200 constantly, and it’s actually kind of out of control,” Plesz says. “I had to stop taking in work for a few weeks, but it was still coming in. It’s hard to tell people, ‘No.’”

The first guitar that Nick built was a Gibson Les Paul copy. The famous guitar design has been played by many famous artists, even inspiring a new collaboration between Gibson and Slash from Guns N’ Roses. 

Kyle Petty, the race car driver turned commentator, owns some Les Paul guitars, and they are maintained once a year by NC Guitar Works. And when the Foo Fighters played at the Fillmore in 2012, Nick’s shop came to the rescue when the band had issues with some of their guitars. “We got to hang out and watch them practice with no one else there,” Plesz says. “They gave us all-access passes to the show that night. That was really cool.”

Plesz almost sold a guitar to his childhood hero, Nikki Sixx from Mötley Crüe, a few years back. “He actually called me to discuss it. He didn’t buy it because it was a 1960 rather than a 1958, which is his birth year, but still wanted to talk guitars.”

Some customers have driven as many as five hours to the shop without calling ahead, Plesz says. NC Guitar Works also gets many instruments sent from the Carolinas locations of Guitar Center, the California-based retailer that has nearly 300 stores nationwide. 

“A lot of people are picking up their instruments that haven’t touched them in years. It happened when people started working from home,” Plesz says.

Nick and his two guitar technicians, Stacey Leazer and Austin Hughes, are “rockin’ around the clock” to keep up with increasing demand for repairs, he says. Leazer is a talented bass player who has performed nationally. “He’s kind of a gearhead and has a lot of knowledge on bass guitars and base electronics,” Plesz says. Hughes, who is a big fan of Pantera guitarist Dime Bag Darrell, walked in the shop one day while one of the Texas heavy-metal band’s songs was playing in the background. “He must have thought he walked into heaven when he came into the shop where he now works, with Pantera playing on the radio,” Plesz says. 

Plesz feels what sets his business apart is the quality of work that comes out of his shop. “We hold ourselves to a higher standard and are very proud of our work. There’s nothing we can’t modify or fix.”  SP  

At press time, NC Guitar Works was serving customers by appointment only.


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