You can buy ukuleles from many places. Obviously, seeing the instrument for real in a store has to be preferred. It's easy to ask questions, feel what you are buying etc. But, for many of us, local stores don't have the range, but many don't provide the setup or customisation that may make the instrument better for YOU.
Worse still, buying online means that many suppliers will just 'drop ship'. That means getting the ukulele from the manufacturer, and shipping it to you. They sometimes don't even open the box!
Even high end ukuleles can often benefit from some setup. My luthier made Bryn Munford uke that I'd had for a few years had been through some strings and have maybe even settled down slightly after being made, one of the strings had started buzzing.
I have the good fortune to be in regular contact with Mim of Mim's Ukes, and I mentioned that one of the strings on my beloved uke has started buzzing - she said to me "no problem, Simon". I left it with her and she sorted out the buzzing strings, levelled the frets and transformed the uke, giving it a brand new lease of life, and better suited to the way my playing had developed.
Now, THIS is what she does with EVERY ukulele she sells. Even from the factory, ukuleles are not perfect. You know how you sometimes pick up a uke and feel underwhelemed? Often a good setup is all that lies between that feeling and one of joy where the uke just falls into the hands and is a delight to play. A well setup uke lets you develop your style and playing rather than working around the instrument.
Mim is a dealer for many brands, Kala, Ohana, Martin and many others. The ranges she carries covers all pricing. For me, I find Ohana to be exceptional value. You might have to spend twice the money on another brand to get something as good as an Ohana. But, that's just my opinion, your mileage may vary! Add Mim's setup though, and the value for money is massively increased. You'll spend the same buying the same uke from her as you would buying it from Amazon, but it's likely that the difference will be night and day.
Then of course, if you want it strung left handed, low G, or some other consideration like arthritic hands, she will look after that. Pickups, strap buttons, again. Buying a case? Make sure you get one that fits properly (you'd be surprised, not all cases are equal!) - Mim will recommended one to suit you and the uke.
She will ship to the UK, but for Cool Cat Ukes readers, she's one of our recommended retailers and she's based in the US. She has a store in Floyd, Virginia, we have no idea where that actually is. BUT - one of the best things, is she has Dovey the cat who assists her in the store doing setups, quality inspection and of course making sure that Mim is on top of her business. For this reason, we have awarded Dovey the status of "Honorary Cool Cat", making her one of the Cool Cat Ukes staff, and the first overseas representative. A ukulele store with a cat? Heaven.
So, especially for US readers, head over to Mim's website. If you have questions, email her, call her, ask those questions. She's a lovely, enthusiastic person, with huge knowledge and experience. You'll likely learn something, she will get you what you need without the pressure and the 'selling up'.
Go to the Mim's Ukes website and take a look.
Simon Taylor, 11th November 2019