So much has happened in 5 years. It’s easiest to see what I’m up to by following me on Instagram, @guitarleys. But while you are here, please check out this video made by my good and very talented friend, Tyler Spooner (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk3yhEQG-n53IPIqRTzMPZw). Share just enough to make it viral! 😉

5 Year Anniversary

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 4.12.03 AMCan you believe that it’s been 5 years since Guitarley’s opened it’s doors!? I can! It’s been a wonderful adventure and the shop has grown immensely. Starting as just a small repair shop with a small work bench, a few guitar hangers, and an amp or two, I now have a custom wood shop and repair/show room, that is packed full of guitars, projects, and woods! I have worked on thousands of guitars and built several customs, with many more in the works. It’s hard to believe sometimes.

Guitarley’s has recently been chosen to design and build 12 custom guitars for Geisinser Health Systems! 12 guitars! Get ready to see some serious building this spring.

I’ll also be hosting an open house to celebrate the 5 years of business! Please plan to attend on Saturday, April 2, from 4-7pm! Come see the guitars that have been built, custom amps, woods, tools, and me!

Custom guitar body with CNC machine!

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It has been way too long since my last post! However, my negligence has been due to a very happily busy repair shop and constant developments in my lutherie and musical business! Life has been good to this “lucky luthier” and “guitar man”! My latest adventure this week was big league for sure…

I recently participated in the 2013 machine Expo at Hermance Machine Company (www.hermance.com). What a cool look into the world of production level woodworking this was! Every year major companies set up product and demonstration booths throughout the facility and show off their tools and what they can do. I was selected to join forces with C.R. Onsrud (www.cronsrud.com) who specialize in high quality CNC (computer numerical control) machinery designed for the aerospace, woodworking, plastics, and composites industries.

With a CAD (computer-aided design) program, we created a three-dimensional geometry of my resonator guitar to guide a very large CNC machine being shown at the expo. This machine cut out one of my guitar bodies, beautifully, in a matter of minutes! As a small luthier with smaller machines and hand tools, this was impressive and inspired possibilities of larger production in the future. It would have taken me a few hours instead of a few minutes.

For the immediate future, this particular machine has provided two mostly cut resonator bodies to be the first of guitars that will be built in my shop in Williamsport, PA. This is very exciting and motivational as I become one step closer to completing my wood shop and beginning the next step in my adventures in lutherie and music. Check out my photo album on Facebook by clicking this link, and be sure to ‘like’ and follow my page- http://on.fb.me/13OPbTL

Memphis Memories

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It was an honor to represent the Billtown Blues Association (www.billtownblues.org) in Memphis, TN, at the 2013 International Blues Challenge! Thank you to my supporters for providing me with another great opportunity like this. This was my third time competing and I realized how different each Beale Street experience has been. My first time in Memphis (2008) I competed with Black n’ Blues (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/blacknb), the second time (2009) with the Ann Kerstetter Band (http://www.annkerstetter.com) after having reconstructive surgery on a freshly reattached thumb. This last time (2013) I competed as a solo artist and Luthier! The one constant, when reflecting on my Memphis trips, is how great a time I’ve had and how much I’ve learned. The amount of talent in both the band and solo/duo divisions never ceases to amaze and humble me.

For many reasons this recent visit has been my favorite thus far! The IBCs inspired my first solo tour, which encompassed 7,000 miles of travel, performing in 15 different cities across the USA! I played just shy of 30 shows all in fantastic new venues while promoting my fresh solo album, “Karma” (http://bit.ly/KarmaCD). See tweets from my solo tour by searching for the hashtag #SWKarmaTour on Twitter (https://twitter.com/guitarleys). I was always nervous about playing solo shows, so to conquer my fears I took them head on in a big way! Not only did I promote and share my music on this tour, but I shared my profession in the art of lutherie! I was proud to perform my original songs on the guitars that I obsessively built myself. I also got to share this great experience with my love and best friend.

Memphis has really grown since the last time I visited! While the usual Beale Street barbecue and blues joints are amazing, it was nice to see many new and successful shops and restaurants on Main Street. I remember taking long runs in the afternoons on my last visit when it was all under renovation! Now Memphis’ downtown, just outside of the Beale St. section, has more of a local’s feel — it’s less touristy, very safe, and full of great places to shop and eat! The beautiful buildings, cobblestone walkways and the Trolley system are comforting and give the town a quaint feel. I really felt it was a city and area that I could move to! I could open a Luthier’s repair and wood shop, build and fix all the stringed instruments and amplifiers by day, then, after sunset, head down to Rum Boogie Cafe or King’s Palace and show them off! Sounds like the good life to me!

All in all my recent trip to the Memphis IBCs was stellar! It was my favorite visit yet! I plan to compete again in the Billtown Blues Auditions next year and will hopefully return to Beale in 2015. By then I should have at least another album or two and some cool new custom built guitars to show off. I think I’ll just keep competing in the IBCs as long as I am able and hopefully I’ll win it someday! It’s always worth a trip for all the great music, and it’s always an enriching learning experience. I feel I have many years left of paying my dues in the world of the blues, but will hopefully one day deserve recognition as a guitar player, singer, songwriter and a Luthier.

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A victory for Guitarley’s

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I’m happy to announce that I recently won a regional Blues competition hosted by the Billtown Blues Association! This makes me a quarter finalist in the International Blues Competition (http://www.blues.org/ibc/#ref=ibc_index) to take place in January of 2013 on Beale Street, Memphis TN! I have done this competition twice before with two different bands and had a blast every time. Last time I played with a freshly re-attached left thumb, playing slide on my lap while in a fancy cast. I hope to make up for it this time around. The saying goes “third time’s a charm!” I’m hoping it applies this time. Not only do I hope to gain from this as a musician, but now as a luthier also. It will be an amazing networking platform for me to play my original music through guitars that I have built myself. I can’t wait to tell everyone about them! I have to remember to take a few business cards with me! I attached a link that will take you to the article about the event I participated in, the musician involved, and a little about myself too. Enjoy!

http://www.sungazette.com/page/content.detail/id/576235/BLUES-TIME.html?nav=5011

LIVE DEMO: The fruits of my labor…

Please check out this video of me playing a newly fixed stratocaster. It needed a lot of love when it came into Guitarley’s! It received some neck repair, fret work, full set up, new bone nut, and a new set of pickups from Seymour Duncan ( http://www.seymourduncan.com ). The “Everything Axe Set” sound outstanding! You can check this link out directly to my youtube page or you can visit and ‘like’ my shop’s Facebook page and see this job and lot’s more! ( http://www.facebook.com/guitarleys ) Make sure to check blogs about my shop, being a luthier, being a musician, small business, and more! Make sure to give me feedback and share! Thanks!

 

Small Business Ownership: “It’s kind of like a roller coaster ride…”

          I officially opened up my small business on April 1st, 2011. The business name: “Guitarley’s Custom Guitar & Repair.” The paperwork and red tape was easily navigated and completed thanks to my local Small Business Development Center (http://www.lhup.edu/sbdc/), a wonderful resource. I was in and out of this office in about an hour with all necessary paper work, tax items and helpful reading material. I was officially a sole proprietor! It almost seemed too easy!
          My business model? I make and fix stringed instruments. My customer base? Relatively specific: people who have stringed instruments. I do a little retail here and there, order parts as needed, have select tools, and do the best work I can. I started out with as little overhead as possible, as advised by one of my instructors at Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery (http://www.roberto-venn.com/), where I was trained and certified in my craft. He suggested some basic power tools, hand tools and a little shop in a good location. “Just start out simple and let it grow naturally,” he said. Well, I lucked out by getting a great deal on a business district storefront and apartment all in one– it was custom made for me. It’s beautiful and convenient! I roll out of bed and walk into my shop! I can take breaks, or never take breaks! I have a 5 foot commute to work, the place is a tax write-off, I’m there to “guard the fort” and I’m always comfortable.
          I took advantage of my connections and relationships to get things started. People were excited for me and my new venture and were willing to help out and lend or return favors. It felt great to have all that support from friends, family and acquaintances. I had lots of local press to draw attention and the help of social media as well (https://www.facebook.com/guitarleys & https://twitter.com/#!/guitarleys). Almost all of the advertising I have done to date has been FREE, and it has worked! Thanks to Facebook and Twitter I have freely promoted myself and made customers and professional contacts locally, regionally and, even cooler, world wide! In business school, I always loved the concept of “buzz marketing” and that’s what I have mostly relied on. It’s very tangible and accountable– I do good work, customers tell others about their positive experience with my service and my customer base grows!
          Now, about that roller coaster ride…
          I have already had my first experiences with cyclical business trends. As a bartender I know that January and February are usually slower months, but as a guitar repair shop owner, I noticed a different trend. I remember tons of cool work coming into my shop in the beginning, I was slammed! It was so exciting. I felt so useful and needed. Long term success was in plain sight. Well, maybe that was a little premature. After finishing up a ton of work I would sit down and feel proud. Then it would hit me… I just finished all my work! That meant something different when I worked for someone else. In this case it meant there wasn’t any more work to do and get paid for! It was a pat on the back that turned into a sharp blow to the gut. I realized the responsibility and sensed the difference of being employed vs. self-employed.
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          Very little work came in for a few weeks after that. Just as I was really stressing over keeping up with bills and losing hope (also premature), a big job would come in! So I was back on top! Then a few more came in, and again, they were big jobs! So I paid the bills and then repeated that cycle for several months. When people asked me “What it was like?” or “How is the business going?” all I could say was “It’s kind of like a roller coaster ride.” The nervous anticipation as you climb, waiting for the next drop, the thrill and enjoyment of getting over the hump, the sudden twists and turns, up and down, up and down, fast and slow! It’s exciting and then a little stressful, a humbling experience that continues to keep me on my toes. I’ve been learning to put the money away for those “rainy days” in business. I also use those slow times to come up with other ways to make money: product extensions, new ventures, booking gigs, picking up a bar tending shift here and there, etc. I learned to not waste time and use free moments to invest and create busier days in the future. As a result, I have been experiencing longer busy times and slower down times.
          So, the graphs and charts show positive growth, and that’s fundamentally positive and successful. That’s the exact plan! Patience and positive thinking get me through. Inventiveness, during slow times, helps things to grow down the line. As a small business owner, and a person in general, you should never be bored. Boredom is just another word for lazy and unmotivated. Down time is when you get a chance to plan for the future, explore new ideas and take stock of your past-to-current practices and outcomes. You should always be learning and researching your business and/or trade to improve your product and offerings. Some of the best advice I received pertaining to that is, “You have to be the expert your customer expects you to be.”