‘It’s home’: Stolen Stratocaster returned to Winnipeg cafe owner

Allison Slessor was working, but her mind was elsewhere — distracted and despondent over the theft of her beloved Fender Stratocaster — when the instrument walked back into her Winnipeg cafe.

Well, the guitar itself didn’t walk, but it was carried in by police on Wednesday.

“Amazing. Very, very happy and grateful,” Slessor said after getting it back. “I’m basically mind blown.”

The guitar had been purchased by the owner of a pawn shop before he knew about the break-in last week at Slessor’s North End shop, Modern Coffee.

“He just had a feeling about it, you know, just a gut feeling. He just felt like there was something off. And he set it aside,” she said.

On Tuesday evening, he saw Slessor’s story on CBC News and immediately recognized the distinct red and white Strat with gold hardware.

He told Slessor he planned to bring it Wednesday but the police beat him to it. They showed up at the Main Street shop, just a few blocks from the cafe at Main and Inkster, while investigating the guitar theft “and there it is,” Slessor said.

She had bought the prized instrument in August 2021 after saving up for six months to buy the $1,600 signature model endorsed by one of her favourite musicians, Australian guitarist Tash Sultana.

The guitar quickly became a fixture in the cafe and struck a chord with customers.

Slessor loves when people come in to play her distinct red and white Fender Strat with gold hardware, but it will no longer be left in the cafe overnight. (Travis Golby/CBC)

“There are moments now where I feel a bit like a fool for keeping a guitar like that out, but I don’t regret it at all. It created so many great moments,” Slessor said in a social media post just after the theft occurred.

Whenever anyone picked it up to play, it brought a smile to her face “not to mention all the conversations it brought on,” she wrote.

Social media posts after the guitar was taken in the overnight hours between March 15-16 were rapidly shared and Slessor had many people saying they would keep an eye out.

“It was unreal. I was just like, wow, I love this community,” she said. “Every customer that came in would ask about it.”

Now Slessor is trying to get the word out that it’s back. She posted an update Wednesday, celebrating “it’s home.”

Even so, people showed up that day to grab a coffee and say sorry, before turning to see the guitar in its familiar stand in the corner, she said.

“So basically everyone that walked in the door got the story of how it came back. It was a pretty hyper day here at Modern Coffee.”

Minutes after the police had returned the guitar, the pawn shop owner stopped by to introduce himself. And moments after that, a Good Samaritan unaware of the good news showed up with a gift.

“He came by to offer his condolences — and a guitar. It was just a whole lot of amazingness at once,” she said.

Allison Slessor poses with her Fender and the electric guitar donated by a good Samaritan. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Despite Slessor’s good fortune in getting her guitar back, the Samaritan insisted she keep his donation. Then he sat to play Slessor’s Strat as well as the one he brought.

The guitar will remain in the shop for people to play, but it will no longer stay there overnight, she said.

“It’s going back to being one of my limbs again,” she said.

“But I really enjoy the experience of having people come here and use it, that’s a big thing for me. So if I’m here, it’s here to play.”