When temporary business closures first began across Pennsylvania in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Chris Martin IV assumed that Martin Guitar would have to scale back.
“I’ve been through guitar booms and busts for a variety of reasons – often economic, sometimes cultural – so I said alright, let’s just go for ‘break even,’” said Martin, CEO of C.F. Martin & Co. Inc., and a sixth-generation leader of the guitar manufacturer.
“And then all of a sudden the phone started to ring,” he said. “And it turns out that when people are stuck at home, they really wanted to buy a guitar.”
Martin was a guest on the Bloomberg Businessweek podcast on Jan. 22, in which the high demand for guitars during the pandemic, the company’s new environmentally-friendly “Earth Guitar,” and all the great things that are possible in Lehigh Valley.
The full interview can be listened to online here.
In many ways, Martin Guitar embodies the Made Possible in Lehigh Valley initiative. The company has been making world-class instruments here for nearly two centuries, since C. F. Martin moved the business to Nazareth in 1838.
Company officials have long touted the region’s central location, proximity to markets, high-quality workforce, and other economic assets.
During the 15-minute interview, Martin discussed how the COVID-19 crisis has affected the company, what the post-COVID future holds for Martin Guitar, and how the company has integrated computer numerical controlled routing machines into its manufacturing process.
“I often joke when I give a factory tour that my ancestors, if they could come back and see the factory they left me, their heads would spin,” he said. “But they are ultimately put together by hand. No one – I don’t care where you make guitars – nobody has invented the guitar-put-it-together machine.”
Hundreds of famous musicians have long touted the guitars made in the Lehigh Valley, with the Martin Guitar Ambassador program including such stars as Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Weezer, David Crosby, Colbie Caillat, Father John Misty, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and many more.
But as the interview came to a close, Martin was asked which musicians he’d love to have become celebrity ambassadors who have not yet been… and Martin had no hesitation in his answer.
“Bob Dylan! Neil Young!” he said. “Anytime you’re ready, we’re ready!”