Most convenience stores don’t have curated music, but with a name like Air Guitar, it’s no surprise music plays a big part in the Gilbert, Arizona, store. “We put in a fantastic AV system to provide concert-level sound and a party/club vibe to our store,” said Eric Seitz, co-owner of Air Guitar, which he founded with business partners Craig and Kris DeMarco. “We wanted to create a place where people could come hang out while listening to great music—a kind of community center for the neighborhood.”
Name of company: Air Guitar
Year founded: September 2021
# of stores: 1
Seitz, who owns 21 other Phoenix-area convenience stores, teamed up with the DeMarcos, who are partners in 30 restaurants across the United States, to build Air Guitar. “We’ve been friends a long time and had been talking about this idea we had to combine hospitality with high-end convenience in a bodega setting,” Seitz said. “So when we had the opportunity to purchase this corner lot, we jumped at it.”
To both Eric and Elissa Seitz and the DeMarcos, the Air Guitar concept started with the building itself. “We built this from the ground up—the store itself is an award-winning building, something we’re very proud of,” Seitz said.
The 5,500-square-foot store has floor-to-ceiling glass windows to bring lots of natural light into the interior space while polished concrete, solid surface counters and raw steel provide a backdrop to the retail space. Low shelving gives the interior an open feeling, too. In addition, a canopy covers 9,000 square feet of patio with seating for 100.
The interior highlights the fresh food Air Guitar offers customers. “Our foodservice is a focal point of the store, with some indoor seating as well,” Seitz said. The store has a full-service coffee bar and a fresh-baked pizza program with all dough and sauces made onsite. An outside vendor provides a dozen flavors of ice cream for hand scooping, while another local company sells cookie dough to mix in with the ice cream. The store partners with a local bakery for fresh pastries and grab-and-go sandwiches and salads. Another vendor handles sushi, which is made on the premises every day.
For the retail aspect of the store, the Seitzes and the DeMarcos devised a mix of one-third traditional c-store items, like candy, salty snacks and energy drinks; one-third natural grocery products; and one-third local items and apparel. “We wanted the merchandise mix to be kind of like a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s along with traditional convenience store items,” Seitz said.
Air Guitar stocks a wide variety of curated beverages. For example, the extensive wine and beer section has newer craft beers as well as national brands. On fountain, Pepsi and Coca-Cola products exist side by side with craft sodas.
For apparel and local goods, the pair seek out unusual and fun products. “We have our own custom line of apparel with the Air Guitar logo on t-shirts and hats, and we also work with local retailers to do pop-ups inside our store,” Seitz said. For instance, this summer, the store featured a pop-up shop for electric scooters.
“We are surrounded by restaurants, retailers, services, mixed-use residential buildings, schools and a cultural center,” Seitz said. “That’s helped get the word out about our store, and we’ve grown organically without needing a full marketing program.”
The store puts on community events every few months, such as activities geared toward families on Halloween and Mother’s Day. “We’ll have eight to 15 vendors and face painting for the kids, plus give away some merchandise and food—it’s fun for everyone,” Seitz said.
While the owners hope to open future Air Guitar locations, for now they’re content to concentrate on making this location sing. “We felt it was so important to build this store with the guest experience top of mind,” Seitz said. “We hope everyone who visits feels we care about putting the customer first.”
One of the more unusual offerings at Air Guitar is its fresh flowers. Five to seven days a week, a local farmer brings in homegrown flowers to stock the self-serve stand. “It’s right in the middle of our store and the farm is a wonderful partner,” said owner Eric Seitz. “We also carry some of its fresh produce and local honey, too.”
Air Guitar sells hundreds of flowers a week year-round. On special occasion days, such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, it sells thousands of flowers to customers. “Our fresh flowers offer our customers a little something extra they might not expect at a convenience store,” he said.