By Wayne Schutsky / Photos by Kimberly Carrillo
Music aficionado Michael Dunn truly embodies the phrase “Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life,” and it is easy to see why. The Rock Star Gallery owner has created a business that allows him to share his passion for rock ‘n’ roll with the masses and make a living while doing it.
Rock ‘n’ roll is not a new obsession for Dunn. In fact, the longtime Scottsdale resident and Coronado High School grad went to so many concerts as a teen that he jokes his favorite acts thought he lived in the front row.
“This is what my bedroom looked like when I was 13,” Dunn says, referencing his 1,200-square-foot shop at Kierland Commons. The space, though small, is jam-packed floor to ceiling with signed records, guitars and other artwork.
Rock Star Gallery has roughly 100,000 square feet of merchandise available through its website.
Though the sentiment is sincere, it is unlikely the Arizona native had a $5,600 signed copy of Led Zeppelin’s debut album or a $7,600 guitar signed by the Bee Gees on his wall when he was a budding teen.
That being said, Dunn’s stereo system from high school does sit in a prominent position in the front of the store and is still used to fill the space with the owner’s favorite music.
Dunn’s vision for the space – which is going on its 14th year – goes beyond a memorabilia store.
He views Rock Star Gallery as a place for visitors to leave their problems behind, and he relishes the look of awe that comes across their faces when they encounter rare pieces of music history.
“The moment they walk in, it’s game on and they get to have a blast,” Dunn says. “Whatever was on their mind before is gone.”
He adds, “It is so fun to watch; it really is.”
Looking is free, but owning a piece of rock ‘n’ roll history does not come cheap. Prices for items in the store range from $900 for an autographed photo of Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl to $14,000 for a “Guitar Heroes” guitar signed by Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, Brian May, Pete Townsend, Billy Gibbons and Eddie Van Halen.
The store also features a range of framed and signed albums and signed guitars from artists like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Eagles, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, AC/DC, Aerosmith and more.
Beyond that traditional fare, Rock Star Gallery lives up to its name with unique pieces of art depicting and created by rock legends, including an original oil painting of Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell album cover by Carl Kunz and a massive portrait of Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash by Sebastian Kruger.
Despite owning a shop lined with rare and expensive pieces of musical history, Dunn insists he never goes in for the hard sell when customers enter the shop. “(My approach) takes all the pressure off,” he says. “When people realize you are not going to sell them something, their demeanor changes and they can just have fun.”
He says this approach makes sense because many of his visitors are out-of-towners on vacation who aren’t going to make an in-store purchase anyway. “At this point, 70 percent of what we do is abroad,” Dunn says. “We shipped to Turkey, Dubai, U.K. and Australia (recently).”
The gallery does most of its business through its website, and Dunn prefers it that way. The gallery itself, while still a storefront, is a gathering place more than anything else – a place of communion for anyone who loves rock ‘n’ roll, whether they can afford to actually purchase the memorabilia or not.
“This doesn’t exist anywhere else,” Dunn says. “We created the holy grail for music fans.”