Back in July of 1978, Charlie LoVarco, Tom LoVarco and Lorraine Lefczuk opened their doors for business in a small 300 square foot store on Jerusalem Avenue in Merrick – the start of a growing chain known as Focus II Guitar Centers.
At the start, the business was a place where Tom could give guitar lessons, as he already had a following in the area. Soon after, Focus II Guitar Center began growing as a retail destination with musical instruments and accessories available for purchase. After signing on as an authorized dealer for such brands as Fender, Gibson, Ovation and more, the store began to grow even quicker.
By the start of 80’s, the business had outgrown its location and Focus II Guitar Center was in need of a larger space. They moved the business a few miles down the road to North Bellmore, where it still resides today as New York Music Emporium. After this move. Tom and Charlie decided to expand from Nassau to Suffolk County and opened their second guitar center on Long Island in Commack. On the day of the grand opening, there was a line of people waiting outside in anticipation. When they opened their doors for business that day, the store was immediately filled to capacity and some customers were even forced to wait outside!
By 1984, the two brothers opened their 3rd location in Patchogue while continuing to grow. Featured in industry magazines and receiving awards from Guitar Player Magazine for leading sales, Focus II Guitar Centers began receiving endorsements from high profile guitar players like Steve Vai, Adrian Blu and many others. Steve was a local guy back then who was close friends with Tom and Charlie, and even sold his CD’s in the shop. Steve also spearheaded a “Get into Focus” ad campaign, and recorded full length radio spots for the store. The retail chain was known for not only having aggressive sale promotions, but had the reputation of having the most sought after instructors. Teachers like John Petrucci, Al Pitrelli and others were known for their modern teaching style, and very popular choices for beginners and pros alike. John went on to form a band called Majesty with bassist and Focus II employee John Myung, and eventually changed the name to Dream Theater. Al Pitrelli also made a name for himself by playing with acts like Megadeth, Alice Cooper and the Trans Siberian Orchestra, while other teachers went to join The Stray Cats with Brian Setzer. In 1986, Focus II Guitar Centers’ was awarded “Best Music Education Program” at the first Annual Music and Sound Awards.
Later in the 80’s, Focus II expanded to new territory and opened their 4th location in Flushing. With the opening of the Queens location, they established themselves as the largest musical instrument dealer on Long Island. In the early 90’s, however, Tom was starting a family and was moving in a different direction in his life, and decided to back out from Focus II and open American Black Belt Academy in Massapequa Park with his wife Lorraine. Charlie changed the name of Focus II to New York Music Emporium, where we all are still growing today!