Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Chesbro Music ups emphasis on homegrown guitar brand

Ben Parker of Chesbro Music
Chesbro Music, one of Idaho Falls’ most enduring businesses, is about to begin the second phase of remodeling its store on Broadway.

While the first phase, completed last fall, dealt with the west side of building’s main floor, this new phase will bring a look to the guitar sales floor. The company is working with Idaho Falls Power and Home Lighting Center to install digital LED lighting. This ought to not only offer better product display but save the company money eventually by significantly reducing their electrical consumption.

While this will shed new light on the Fender, Gretsch, Guild and Taylor guitars in the store, a whole new emphasis will be brought to the store’s own brand, Teton Guitars.

When Chesbro Music says it is the “Home of Teton Guitars” it is the literal truth. Teton Guitars are made in China for Chesbro’s, which sells them not only in its store but in stores across the nation.
The project has proven to be a great success, said Ben Parker, Chesbro Music’s marketing and project manager. It dates back to the 2010 NAMM show in Anaheim, Calif., a huge annual trade show for everybody in the music business.

At the time, Chesbro’s was looking for a company to make inexpensive nylon-string classical guitars for them. At NAMM, they met representatives from a Chinese manufacturer that did nothing but classical guitars, so a tentative deal was made.

“We wanted to see what their mass production and quality would be,” Parker said. When the first 10 guitars came in that November — just in time for Christmas — the results were outstanding.
In addition to a big order, Chesbro’s asked the manufacturer if it would consider expanding into steel-string guitars. “They made a fantastic guitar,” Parker said. This was the cedar-top STS105NT, an dreadnought with a $399 list price.

By the end of 2011, the line had expanded to four classical models and three steel-strings. “We wanted to make something that working musicians could afford that would play well,” Parker said. The most expensive Teton is the newly minted STA150CENT-AR, an electric cutaway that retails for $799.
Chesbro Music has been doing business in the Far East since the early ‘70s, when Joan Chesbro, the president of the company, forged a close relationship with Hoshino, maker of Ibanez guitars and Tama drums. The company was Hoshino’s U.S. wholesaler for decades, and its connections proved valuable when it came time to market Teton Guitars.

Parker said they have Tetons in 200 to 250 stores, including the six new accounts they added at the 2016 NAMM show last month.

One new dealer, Guitar Villa in Bethlehem, Pa., reported that people from the nearby C.F. Martin and Co. factory in Nazareth have come in to buy Tetons. “It makes me feel good to hear a story like that,” Parker said.

The guitars are not intended to compete with premium brands, but a lot of professional players are leaving their Martins and Taylors home and using Tetons onstage. Overall, since 2010 Chesbro’s has sold more than 15,000 Teton Guitars, about a third of them in 2015.

“We’re looking to sell 50 to 60 percent more this year,” Parker said.