Factory cranking again
Kalamazoo, MI â€“ A new partner is breathing new life into Heritage Guitar Company, the Kalamazoo guitar manufacturer that operates out of what was once a factory for Gibson Guitars. Heritage shut down its operations in September but sawdust is flying again this week now that the factory has reopened under the leadership of new partner Vince Margol.
Heritage was created by four Gibson employees who wanted to remain in Kalamazoo when Gibson left for Nashville in 1984. After nearly becoming a Fender plant (you''ll have to take the Heritage tour for the full story), Heritage was formed and went on to make stringed instruments for 22 years. Talks were held with a number of buyers during the plant''s brief closure this summer. The new version of Heritage that emerged involves all four original owners (though only three remain owners) with new parter Margol serving as company president.
A long time guitarist who is enamored with the company''s historic ties, Margol stresses that the company will remain in Kalamazoo.
"We will continue to make guitars here in Kalamazoo the way they''ve always been made," Margol tells Premier Guitar. "It was exhilarating to fire up production again yesterday."
Margol says the company has always had the capacity to produce more guitars. Now that he is running the day-to-day business operations, the actual guitar makers are free to focus on making guitars. The company was making about four guitars a day prior to the reorganization. Margol expects that number to get up to around eight.
"Some of these craftsmen are in their seventies," Margol says. "They have a wealth of knowledge that they are passing on to a new generation of luthiers. We are making sure that this company and its reputation for quality lives on."
Heritage has made a variety of stringed instruments over the years but recently focused on hollowbody, semi-hollowbody and solidbody guitars. The Cadillac of the Heritage line is the Super Eagle. The company is also known for producing the H137, H150 and H157.
If you include part-timers, Heritage has about 20 employees now -- many of whom have been making guitars since the headstocks said "Gibson," and even some whose parents and grandparents worked in the same 100-year old factory at 225 Parsons Street.