Saint Blues Guitar Workshop has announced suspension of its imported Pro Series, and is moving its U.S.-made Workshop Series and Custom production back to Memphis, where the brand started in 1984. The company is citing two primary reasons for these moves: the desire to focus on production in the U.S., and the shrinking margins for imported guitar brands.
The Workshop Series, available since 2009, had previously been built in Nashville. While St. Blues’ focus had been on the imported line, it became evident reverence for hand-crafted guitars built in the U.S. was strong as ever. Due to this interest, the decision was made to move production to the workshop in Memphis and under the oversight of Tom Keckler, the original designer and co-founder of St. Blues, to ensure the highest quality standards.
"I’ve talked to other smaller boutique brands who also import from China and Korea, and because of the pressure to buy and sell in volume due to rising costs in materials, labor, and shipping overseas, their gross margins are barely enough to make the business viable," said Saint Blues owner Bryan Eagle. "Bringing production to Memphis creates jobs in the U.S. and allows us flexibility and innovation that mass production never will. Keeping the jobs here and building in small batch production is a sustainable long-term business."
"The writing was on the wall," added Brian Halley, Director of Sales and Marketing. "When you combine the industry’s race to the lowest selling price due to big box and internet competition with increased costs for a smaller boutique brand like St. Blues, it is a no-brainer to return to where the brand started. We’re excited at being solely focused on small-batch production of very high quality instruments, each with a story that starts in the capable hands of Memphians."
The Workshop series consists of the same base models St. Blues has offered for years. The original Bluesmaster, Mississippi Bluesmaster, Blindsider, and 61 South will be the core offerings, with custom models available as well. Workshop Series guitars feature only handpicked, finest select woods, components produced by the most renowned boutique builders, and expertly finished in nitro cellulose lacquer. This level of quality and detailed craftsmanship is only available in small batch production.
The decision comes in conjunction with St. Blues’ effort to further establish their Memphis location as a destination location for the over one million music-related tourists that visit Memphis each year. The City of Memphis has even chipped in with several grants to support St. Blues’ production move and retail expansion. With a full renovation of its offices slated for a February completion, St. Blues will offer visitors to Memphis a retail environment featuring St. Blues branded products as well as items from other local attractions like the Smithsonian’s Rock and Soul Museum and the Stax Museum. The décor will feature a combination of Memphis-music history, retail items, and guitar workshop. In the workshop, visitors can witness several stages of the building of the guitars, and interact with the technicians, including builder Tom Keckler. Says Keckler, "This is where St. Blues guitars began, and this is where rock and roll was born, built with that in mind. This will be cool, same as it was for Tom Anderson and me building the original late ’70s & early ’80s Schecter axes, and then again what we did with St. Blues in the ’80s here in Memphis. It’s time to invest in making things in America again."
Learn more at saintblues.com.