Meet Mike Stryker of New London. By day, he’s a Financial Advisor at UBS and by lunchtime and weekends, owner of Spindrift Guitars, one of the shoreline’s highest-end guitar shops. In his own words, he explains his passion for his two seemingly disparate interests.
“Spindrift” is a nautical term—the foam found at the top of the wave. We wanted an “along the shore” identity. John Van Ness (General Manager) suggested it after Googling names, and he didn’t know my grandparents actually had a house in Bethany Beach, DE called “Spindrift.” There was an element of serendipity to that—it brings back memories of my childhood.
My ability to work with clients at UBS is similar to helping folks find the right guitar. They’re looking for a particular instrument with a certain sound. Just like looking for information about their financial goals, it’s a consultative sales process. Someone will start out with an acoustic guitar. Then it’ll be a good idea to get a ukulele to go with it. Just one investment isn’t enough for anyone. You need diversification—that’s how the two relate.
A tremendous source of pride for our cover band, “The Rhythm Method,” is the ability to play at fundraisers and help raise money for the Rotary Foundation of New London. One of the annual events is Operation Lobster Dinner in Groton, where they give out free lobsters to Navy members and their families. Plus, people generally love to hear covers.
If I could invite any three musicians, living or dead, to dinner, I’d have to go with Bob Marley, Elvis Costello, and Tom Petty. I’m in another cover band, “Learning to Fly.” I started after realizing that Petty’s repertoire is so deep, varied, and interesting, that playing and singing only his songs would be a great side project.
My favorite jam of all time is “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House. Its’ a beautiful melody, fun to sing and play, and somewhat challenging. The first two songs I ever “mastered” were “Stairway to Heaven” and “Free Bird.” When you play guitar in the 70s or 80s, those are kind of musts. The biggest thrill since the store opened was when Glenn Tilbrook, founding member of the band Squeeze, walked in on a Saturday. He bought two guitars from us.
Playing guitar as a teenager really helped me to establish a sense of identity. If you can master any instrument, it gives you the confidence to tackle any other challenge in life. The simple fact is, once you pick it up, you have no idea what to do with it. I’ve stayed in close touch with my Connecticut College friends, 25 years after graduating and 30 years after forming The Rhythm Method. It’s a real blessing.
We have a big online presence. We ship guitars around the country and world, but always want to serve the local community first. Part of what allows me work at the store and UBS is the terrific team that I have. John Van Ness is an excellent General Manager. Mike “Whit” Whitney builds and repairs tube-style guitar amps. Shirley Tusia is our bookkeeper. They help make it all possible.
Check out Mike Stryker’s New London-based store at spindriftguitars.com.