For Mario Cappelluti, owner of Mario's Uptown Grill and Pizzeria on Philadelphia Avenue in Egg Harbor City, music has always been a release.

There's no better way for him to wind down from a long day behind the counter than to lay down a couple licks on a guitar or to relax to a few tunes with a friend. On his days off, he'll drag his wife, or more often his friend Anthony Gelona, to the music store to hang out.

In late June, he opened Uptown Guitar next to the pizzeria, making his escape just steps away.

"It's my little getaway after being over there 12, 14 hours a day," said Cappelluti, who lives in Egg Harbor City.

Cappelluti always has maintained a collection of about half-dozen guitars, he said, and digs the music scene, so when his tenant moved out of the space next to the pizzeria, he decided to make it his project.

Over the past year, he expanded his collection to a few dozen lightly used acoustic and electric guitars, which he offers for sale in the store. Most pieces fall into the $200 to $300 range, although a few collectibles - such as a 1963 Fender Stratocaster he said is worth about $6,000 - command higher prices.

He also offers amplifiers in various sizes and a full suite of accessories including strings, picks and pedals. Uptown Guitar also buys equipment and takes trade-ins.

Because he has to maintain the pizzeria as well as the guitar shop, it's only open four days per week - Friday through Monday - from 1 to 7 p.m. Cappelluti rotates duties behind the shop counter with Gelona and another friend, Tommy Hall, who is certified in guitar repair.

The space is modest, at about 20 feet deep and 10 feet across, and its selection is mostly limited to guitars, although Cappelluti said he stocks other items on request.

The small size of Uptown Guitar, Gelona said, offers a refreshing, personal change of pace from some of the sprawling music superstores in the area.

"It's got a nice, relaxed, old-school feel, which is kind of what we're going for," said Gelona, who lives in Egg Harbor City. "There's enough supermarkets around."

Cappelluti is renovating the shop's back room, where he plans to host local musicians for lessons soon, he said.

The shop hasn't exploded in popularity in the few weeks it has been open, Cappelluti said, but he's encouraged by the steady stream of customers who come through the door.

"We have a lot of action, people checking it out," Cappelluti said. "It's a little bit better than I thought it was going to be, actually."

While the shop is a business, at its most basic, it's a way for Cappelluti and his friends to indulge one of their deepest passions - music. And in that way, it's been a runaway success.

"I like it," Gelona said. "I mean, what could be better than sitting in a room full of guitars and amps with one of your good friends?"

Contact Braden Campbell:

609-272-7415

If you go

Uptown Guitar is located at 124 Philadelphia Ave., Egg Harbor City. For more information, call 609-517-3744 or email gman41@comcast.net.