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There was a nice article in Fortune magazine not long ago about Martin Guitar of Nazareth, PA and it’s been hanging around in my Drafts folder, waiting for some Sunday morning when there wasn’t anything else readily available to hoist up.

As some of you may know, I grew up just a few miles from Nazareth and Martin Guitar ranks probably a distant second to Mario Andretti in the town’s claim to fame.

Even with consumer spending on the uptick, you might not think buyers would be spending their dollars on guitars. But think again. Business at the legendary guitar manufacturer C.F. Martin & Company has never been better. In fact, with $114.3 million in sales, 2013 marked the guitar manufacturer’s best year ever.

True, superstars play Martin’s fabled instruments. But the guitar maker’s success is due as much to the fact that this family business, founded in 1833, sees to it that quality control, customer relations, and service stay strong and remain under careful scrutiny.

As Martin grapples with the rising cost of raw materials and a deluge of low-cost competitors, it has managed to retain the reputation as the BMW of the guitar world.

“Our 2013 fourth-quarter sales were the best in our company’s history,” says Dick Boak, director of the museum, archives, and special projects for Martin. “We always get a big bump at the end of the year, because of Christmas. This year something unusual happened. There’s a young guitar player named Ed Sheeran from England, who is very popular with kids, from about 15 to 25. They saw him on TV playing a fairly inexpensive guitar of ours, a ‘Little Martin LX’ [retails for around $300]. So we did a limited edition of about 4,000. And they all sold out.”

If you’re ever in the area, a visit is highly recommended.

I’m not a guitar player, but they have a terrific museum and a great factory tour that should be of interest to anyone. Just the fact that a family-owned company has survived and is now thriving after more than 180 years is pretty impressive in itself.

We’re Kind of Turning Japanese

This Pew Research report on how the nation will look demographically in the decades ahead is not really surprising for those who have been paying attention over the years to the well established trends that have long been underway.

Basically, we’re becoming less white and grayer (note the link to the left -  someone felt the need to buy the domain greyorgray.com to answer what was, apparently, a commonly asked question and, not surprisingly,  it shows up as the first search result for “grey or gray?”).

Anyway, there’s a really neat interactive graphic with the Pew story about how the nation is aging and the start point (1950) and end point (2060) of said graphic are shown below.

More on the changing ethnicity of the country and the implications of it all make this a report that is well worth reading, especially if you’re  many years younger than me…

It appears that the absence of an obvious catalyst for yesterday’s brutal stock market sell-off (that is, aside from the belated realization that prices have already risen too high) has a lot of people uncomfortably scratching their heads today about whether to buy or sell and this story and video segment below from USA Today captures the sentiment fairly well.

Admittedly, I try not to read too much about this sort of thing from the mainstream financial media (yes, CNBC trotted out Marc Faber again yesterday after stocks tumbled), but a cursory review of what was being offered revealed the distinct lack of one talking point that has been popular so far this year as stocks have struggled, namely, the thinking that we should “just get this correction out of the way”, presumably so that stocks can go on to achieve their full potential, preferably sooner rather than later.

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A Massive Herd of Elk

This is a simply astounding video of wildlife in Montana and the best part about it is that it happened only a few miles from here in Bozeman.

One Austin Stonnell was driving along Kagy Blvd. in the southeast part of town when he happened upon a huge elk herd crossing the road and got out his camera. Not only is the size of this herd astounding and beautiful to watch as the animals jump the fence one after another, but it has some drama at the end (don’t worry, it ends well).

The local paper had this Page 1 story yesterday where it was learned that the herd is typically visible from his house (we live on the north end of town, so, we don’t see anything like this) and the Associated Press picked up the story as well, for example here.

A couple hours ago the YouTube video had 1.3 million views, but now it’s up to 1.4 million and I wouldn’t be surprised if Jeane Moos has already done a report  on this for CNN. She was clearly captivated by the running bison in Yellowstone last week as seen here and would probably think that elk are one step closer to what might be her ultimate namesake goal.

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