He didn't have to take the time with me. I walked into his place of business a total stranger with a load of questions which he answered patiently and enthusiastically. His name is Mark, the owner and operator of a violin shop and repair facility. He and his wife are the entire staff, and while she waited on actual paying customers, he waxed eloquent about the instruments that he loves. I wanted to know about basses, and in a short half hour, I learned a lot about what to look for, what brands to avoid, how much I should and shouldn't pay. He let me try out a few, and I could tell instantly why one was more expensive than another.
His honesty was refreshing as he told me of the repair work he does, and of work he can do, but doesn't like, so he charges extra for it. I learned of the history of different companies, and why there are two different kinds of bows. It was clear to me that this was more than a business; it is a passion not only for the instruments, but also for his customers. He wasn't concerned that I buy from him; he just wanted to make sure I didn't get ripped off, ending up with a piece of junk that ultimately wouldn't be playable.
I didn't exit his store with an instrument, but I did leave with a lot of respect and with the certainty that if I actually pull the plug for a bass, he will be the one to whom I turn to keep it in tip top shape. I left with something else, too: gratitude that there are people like him whose passion for what they do impels them to pursue excellence, and whose character moves them to offer their expertise not just for the dollar, but for the customer.