Tacoma Guitars Gains Independence and Continues to Expand Instrument Line While Gathering Rave Reviews

“One of the nation’s premier guitar manufacturers, Tacoma Guitars, has undergone a change in ownership and has introduced nine new instrument models as they continue to battle for position as the third largest acoustic guitar manufacturer in America.The company, known for its distinctive paisley soundhole, and also for being the largest mandolin manufacturer in the nation, has continued to introduce new finish options on an expanded product line now reaching over 50 different models and finishes, according to John Hawkins, marketing director.The ownership change that took place early this year is just a financial understanding, Hawkins said, amounting to a management buyout. Tacoma Guitars had been a subsidiary of Young Chang America Timber, but now operates independently with a holding company. We’re totally independent, Hawkins said. We have been operating independently for a long time.The company has had no changes in dealers or representatives throughout the change.The company, in only its fourth year of operation, has rapidly grown into a major player in the acoustic guitar market. Battling with companies like Martin, in business for over 100 years, and Taylor, about 27 years old, this new kid on the block is fighting for the third largest American manufacturer of acoustic guitars.The industry grew 8 percent last year, Hawkins said. We grew about 21 percent. We know we have a winner.The company has been able to get into major U.S. markets almost immediately, Hawkins said, and has spread into markets in Canada, as well as overseas. Tacoma Guitars products can currently be found in 11 international markets, with a total of 20 set as a goal for this year, Hawkins said.Recently returned from the winter NAMM, the International Music Products Association industry tradeshow in southern California, the company is now marketing itself in European tradeshows. The United Kingdom and Germany are strong this year, with the addition of Japan and Italy becoming larger customers for the manufacturer.Olympia, an imported line of economical guitars carried by the company, is also doing well. American-made guitars only accounted for approximately 10 percent of the 724,000 guitars sold at retail in the U.S. last year, Hawkins said. By covering both the higher-end American-made guitar market as well as the under-$500 market, the company has a broad enough base to be recession resistant, Hawkins said.The company’s Internet web site, which offers descriptions of each instrument model and links to retailers carrying Tacoma Guitars products, is receiving 7-8,000 hits daily, Hawkins said.New products like the Laurence Juber series, named after a guitar virtuoso who has played with the likes of Paul McCartney, are getting a warm reception, according to customer service manager Julian Henslee. The EM-9 model won Guitar Player magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award for 1999, while other models, including the company’s popular Papoose and a versatile acoustic bass with an easily changed neck for either fretted or fretless playing, continue to gather prominent players and glowing reviews.We got a remarkable response last year, Henslee said. We didn’t run any ads in any major magazines, but still gained market share.Peter Frampton, Lila McCann’s band, Roy Clark, and other respected musicians play Tacoma Guitars. The Judds’ crew came to visit when they recently played the Tacoma Dome and shortly afterwards Tacoma Guitars were seen in use during a Judds television appearance.Henslee still reflects on the company’s involvement as a sponsor last year with Music Bridges which brought together about 100 American and European musicians like Bonnie Raitt, Andy Sommers and others, along with their Cuban counterparts, for a week of songwriting, recording and performing in Havana.A photo of Henslee with Fidel Castro decorates his office, along with an amplifier, five guitars, a mandolin, gushingly signed celebrity photos, and a guidebook to Cuba. The phone rings intermittently – dealers, representatives, and a crewmember from The Judds band alerting him to the upcoming television show.Henslee said to watch for continued innovations and new models, including the possible addition of an imported line of mandolins, and perhaps even steel-topped Dobro guitars.Visit the Tacoma Guitars link at www.tacomadailyindex.com for more information on the company, a virtual tour of guitar production, music industry reviews, and artists who play Tacoma Guitars instruments.”