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.