Krazy Kat Music was a staple of the St. Mary’s music scene before its closing in 2014, but a new owner is breathing life back into the property.
Founded by Eugene Ng in March 1990, Krazy Kat Music was one of San Antonio’s only independent music stores. Not only a local Guitar Center alternative, the shop at 3020 N. St. Mary’s Street served as a forum and stage for musicians of all levels of skill and notoriety throughout San Antonio.
Krazy Kat Music also bolstered San Antonio’s music education programs, bringing the shop’s eclectic instruments to give demonstrations to young music students and summer campers. Ng owned and operated the business until encountering health issues in 2014.
The store was shut down and later sold while employees and customers migrated across the street to found Robot Monster Guitars. After purchasing the store in December 2015, new owner Elizabeth “Elis” Lessard quietly reopened the store as St. Mary’s Street Music.
As I opened the door to the shop, I was greeted by a shaggy dog followed by Lessard and manager Chris Brady. An array of used electric and acoustic guitars and basses lined the racks on the shop’s walls and floor.
At the front of the store was the cash register, situated behind a glass cabinet with an assortment of looping, wah-wah and other sound effect pedals as well as miscellaneous elements like guitar picks, strings and capos. Towards the back of the shop were drum sets and equipment.
Other eclectic wares such as accordions, violins, banjos and bongos were also hidden throughout the shop. On the other side of the shop’s northern wall, a fiery cumbia band rehearsed their music.
Following some initial discussion, Lessard ushered me to the store’s backyard, a sandy courtyard outfitted with tables, chairs and lighting dubbed “Kat’s Alley.” Already a budding musical venue, Lessard hopes to bring more performances as well as community-oriented open-mike nights here.
Rather than trying to perfectly follow in the footsteps of Krazy Kat, Lessard is finding her own way to stake her claim in San Antonio’s music scene.
“For 20 years, these guys supported the musical community. Times have changed, so I’m trying to support the music community in my own way,” Lessard said. “It’s been very difficult because there’s a big music community here and, to them, Krazy Kat was Krazy Kat. To see me coming in and changing things up was very distressful.”
But Lessard is determined to do justice to Krazy Kat’s legacy.
“I wanted to honor the Krazy Kat name as well as Eugene, the guy who owned it. Krazy Kat was the name I knew it by and I fell in love with it,” Lessard said. “I just want to continue to support the music community by giving them places to shop, practice, and play.”
Although the music store section of the building looks as though it’s been running smoothly for ages, Lessard still sees room for improvement.
“When I got here, Krazy Kat was pretty much dead and gone. I just started cleaning and fixing and making things look better,” Lessard said. “There are three separate spaces: there’s St. Mary’s Street Music, there’s the rehearsal space on the other side and there’s Kat’s Alley in the back. In the back will be private parties, and I’d like to put a small pub with beer and wine there, but that’s way down the line.”
After our brief interview, Lessard chatted with the other customers who had started to trickle in and got to work repairing some guitars behind the counter.
Along with assuring the San Antonio music scene that the spirit of Krazy Kat lives on, Lessard hopes to create a close-knit space for musicians and music lovers of all walks of life — from experienced bands to college students — to enjoy.
“I find that the military base up here has a lot of people just passing through, and they need to know that they can rent a guitar for the two months they’re going to be here or buy something inexpensively,” Lessard said. “The same goes for the students up at Trinity. I’ve had a few students come in and buy instruments as well.”
Lessard then leaned back and recounted a story from the Kat’s Alley.
“There was a band playing, and there was a kid there at one of the tables just doing his homework.” Lessard laughed as she looked across her backyard. “The whole St. Mary’s Strip has just exploded in the last three years with live music, and the neighborhood’s just picking up a lot. There’s not really a store like this in San Antonio; the other two resale guitar stores are either really high-end or vintage.”
A guy in basketball shorts, a colorful serape-print scarf and a black tank top reading “I like doing hoodrat things with my friends” put it quite nicely when conversing with Lessard about the shop.
“I love what you’ve done with the place. Takes me back to the good old days.”