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Sad Days At Heritage Guitars

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by deytookerjaabs, Feb 24, 2018.

  1. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Friend of Leo's

    Jun 5, 2015
    Nashville
    A while back the company was sold and along came a foreign investor after that pumping in money for factory expansion & renovations. Now, after training the new hires they've let go all the seasoned guitar builders while "postponing" production on most of the high end time consuming models (carved archtops).


    I guess this is expected, but RIP the old Heritage where there was no management, no marketing, no sales force, no brand protection and just fantastic high spec'd guitars at comparably incredible prices.




    Of course these moves were made in order to build less guitars to "improve quality" and thus dealers & management are now saying the quality of the past wasn't up to par. Well.....yeah...
     
  2. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Doctor of Teleocity

    Apr 28, 2003
    Nashville, TN
    Do you have an article to link to? I'd like to read what you're reading too.

    I have only ever seen new Heritage guitars in maybe two or three stores in my entire life, and even then, it was only two or three guitars on the wall... usually just a LP and a 335. They are fantastic guitars for sure, easily on the same quality level as the highest end Gibsons and PRS guitars and such...


    ...But I've always wondered if the company was really trying to make a strong go at market success, or if they were just hobbyists... former Gibson employees who were romanticizing their past.

    That's complete and total speculation on my part, and it may be false. But I've never understood why there was not more marketing and product placement from Heritage.
     
    Smiff and drlucky like this.
  3. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Friend of Leo's

    Jun 5, 2015
    Nashville
    Visit "Heritage Owners Club"


    As for romanticizing their past, quite frankly, before the sale you could get a kick ass high end hand carved arch top custom ordered for around 4 grand or less (when Gibson's are double that).

    Why so cheap? Because..they had no real management, no marketing team, no sales force, and no branding to enforce.

    I understand maybe electric guitar fans don't appreciate those things, but guitars like the Super Eagle or Henry Johnson or H575 were absolutely the best value dollar per dollar coming out of domestic guitar builders.
     
    Flakey and davidchagrin like this.
  4. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

    Dec 6, 2015
    Wisconsin
    What's not to love about that?
    Marketing is the customer's enemy. They're trying to get you to pay the most for the least while you're trying to pay the least for the most.
    They're not that great for people who build stuff either, because they're always on team suits, not team boots.

    People making great guitars and selling them to people who want them. That's perfection, and I'm sorry to see it go.

    I'm very curious about the pay difference between building for heritage vs building for gibson over the last 20 years.
     
  5. boredguy6060

    boredguy6060 Friend of Leo's

    Mar 28, 2012
    Sou Cal
    Jimmy Foster was one of the greatest builders of acoustic arch tops.
    He hand carved the top and back and tuned it.
    He died suddenly about 8 years ago.
    His guitars cost between 18k and 25k ten years ago, and he had a waiting list.
    He said in an interview that the only competition he had was Heritage guitars.
    Their stuff was as good as it gets, sorry to hear about their troubles.
    Someone will buy them, you may not recognize it when their done overhauling it, but the name will no doubt continue.
    .
     
  6. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Doctor of Teleocity

    Apr 28, 2003
    Nashville, TN
    Rick330man likes this.
  7. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Doctor of Teleocity

    Apr 28, 2003
    Nashville, TN
    "Selling them to the people who want them" = marketing

    That's what marketing is - you take your product to the market for the purpose of selling it.
     
  8. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Friend of Leo's

    Jun 5, 2015
    Nashville

    Oh, just wait, you'll see plenty of people cheering this stuff in this thread and others.


    The masses don't want a high end arch at an incredible price. They want Les Paul and 335 clones with a headstock closer to Gibson at uber boutique prices. The masses will applaud these moves as "smart management" etc because they see themselves as hip and business savvy.

    Meanwhile, those same dolts ask questions like "why does modern country suck?"

    Well, you know, I'm sure it has nothing to do with retailers killing diversity to make their bottom line whilst lining their pockets.
     
  9. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Poster Extraordinaire

    I don't know the details or specifics about Heritage.
    I vaguely recall a story about it being formed by former Kalamazoo Gibson employees. That's cool. Employees taking ownership of their own business.
    Am I to assume that they sold the company because they needed a cash infusion?

    Regardless, every company needs leadership (management) and some form of marketing. Everyone is in the marketing business. There's just the difference between bloated and poor management and lean, focused management with a vision. The same is true with marketing: there is good and bad marketing.

    I think of bad marketing as Gibson with their auto-tune concepts, painted or multicolored guitars and an unmanageable and confusing product line. The same can be said of Fender to some extent.

    As for Heritage, it's marketing was limited which is why a typical Jimmy or Joe couldn't find one in a local store to play. You have no business if you don't have margin and you have no margin if you can't sell enough of your product.

    I have always heard good things about Heritage guitars but I doubt I'll ever get the opportunity to play or own one.
     
    RodeoTex likes this.
  10. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Friend of Leo's

    Jun 5, 2015
    Nashville

    I disagree. To me, Heritage was a group of luthiers with line support building custom instruments in very small made to order quantities. Most luthiers barely even have a website as they're not in a traditional instrument factory setting. The news gets out by word of mouth. Your money goes into their material, labor and overhead. For 3 decades Heritage got by without engaging in all the details you'd expect out a company looking for expansion.


    Now, yes, they're a real business with a young staff and a basic guitar factory.
     
    bottlenecker likes this.
  11. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Poster Extraordinaire

    Oh, I'm not saying it's a good thing that they were taken over and certainly that experienced luthiers were replaced by less skilled craftsmen.
    Look, I don't know the details of their operation. I don't know how many folks are employed; how big their shop/plant is; overhead, etc. If word of mouth was sustaining their business model and everyone was happy then that's great. No matter what, all business is based on profit and loss. You have to make a profit to stay in business and it has to be enough that the ROI is better than other alternatives.
    I still don't understand why they sold or took money from foreign investors.
    My first two Gibsons were made in Kalamazoo.
     
    drlucky likes this.
  12. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Doctor of Teleocity

    Apr 28, 2003
    Nashville, TN
    Maybe there has been a misunderstanding between the public perception of what Heritage was all about, and what those former Gibson employees who founded Heritage intended.

    It seems that at the outset, the public perception was that Heritage wanted to position themselves as the most authentic version of the golden era of Gibson electric guitars. They were the same people, building the same guitars.

    The guitar playing public was like, "Great! That's fantastic! Let me play one! I'll consider buying one!" ... but they were almost nowhere to be found. If you have to drive to 225 Parsons Street to see and play one, chances are you're never going to take that opportunity. If that's what the original founders of Heritage intended, that's certainly their prerogative.

    The shops that sustain that type of model are almost always two and three employees who only take custom orders. Someone in the HOC thread that I linked to mentioned that it was 13 employees who got laid off. That's a lot of employees for a company who doesn't get many of their products into dealers.

    None of my comments have anything at all to do with the quality and craftsmanship of Heritage guitars. Like I said, the few that I have played over the years were superb. And almost always used. When I worked at the music store in the 90s, my boss (the sole owner of the store) told me that he was technically a Heritage dealer, but they could only ship him a couple of guitars a year. He said it wasn't really worth his time, in an era when PRS was exploding - so he went with PRS, who shipped him 10-12 guitars a month. Heck - go to the Heritage website right now and click on "Dealers" then come back and tell me who is listed for Nashville. (I know who it is in Nashville, but it's not even on their site... cause they don't have any dealers listed at all.)

    So, it's just a matter of what the founders of the company intended I suppose. And maybe us in the guitar playing community misunderstood.
     
    backporchmusic likes this.
  13. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 14, 2013
    Indiana
    same old story

    I guess for us it's best to find the quality builders who want to build quality guitars for the sake of quality guitars, and buy as direct as possible -- if we want "guild" arts to continue to exist, that is

    at bottom you can buy $150 Bullets or for the custom alternative at the top, assemble CNC necks and bodies + parts from China or wherever

    withe brands being such illusions, I see no reason, as a consumer, for a middle
     
  14. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Friend of Leo's

    Jun 5, 2015
    Nashville
    Well, to be fair, most of the founders started at Gibson in the 50's so the end of that era was inevitable.


    But, rather than see the torch passed down slowly from what I can tell Heritage just wants to focus on Laminates and Dupli-Carved guitars to sustain business, while putting the old school on the shelf "until a later date." If there's a good way to lose skill and tradition that Marv, Jim & Co learned from guys who were around in the 20's/30's that's how you do it.
     
    Piggy Stu likes this.
  15. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

    Dec 6, 2015
    Wisconsin

    That's what it should be.
     
  16. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Telefied Ad Free Member

    Marketing is identifying people, and convincing them they need something that they didn't know they needed.

    Opening up a shop and generating output in the hope people will just happen to find you, is not marketing.

    +

    The general sales pitch, was Heritage was owned by employees. Somehow, this ceased to be. Did a previous generation of workers fail in their duty to find successor craftsmen/stakeholders to acquire their stakes? I appreciate that some folks "just want a job", but if you worked there but never acquired a stake, and when stakes in the company end up being sold to outsiders and some lose their jobs, whose fault exactly is that?

    +

    It occurs to me, that whole Heritage "Identity Narrative", which would be the logical core of a full on marketing strategy, was in the past or would not withstand much scrutiny. No, wouldn't make much sense to shine intense light on your company if you weren't who you said you were. Maybe money spent on marketing would have been waste.

    At least, with John Hall and Henry Juszkiewicz, you knew out front you were getting an authoritarian son of a gun - no lies there. :^
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
    RomanS likes this.
  17. MilwMark

    MilwMark Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Apr 29, 2013
    near Arnold's
    Man. A lot of you guys have a dark world view. Why can't marketing be a win-win, exactly? Why does it have to be snake oil and convincing people to buy what they don't need, and pay more for it? Sheesh. Must be hard to get through the day.

    Heritage guitars are pretty cool. I owned two. They are price but not over-priced. You take a bath on resale. Each ultimately left me a little flat. IMO the best Gibsons are great guitars, and can be had in the same price range. But they seem to hold their value better.

    YMMV.

    I hope the new infusion can help the company market their products better, to create more awareness and get them in more showrooms where people can try them out.

    But apparently that would be nefarious?

    P.S., I'm not in marketing.
     
  18. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

    Dec 6, 2015
    Wisconsin

    I remember them hanging on the wall of a decent sized local shop, and they usually had at least three. That shop closed after a GC opened here. There are a lot of different markets out there, or at least there used to be.
     
    TheGoodTexan likes this.
  19. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

    Dec 6, 2015
    Wisconsin

    Considering all the threads here where people don't believe that an archtop sounds any different than a solid body when plugged in, it's obvious the masses don't care about archtops. They've never even heard one.
    Some people think f holes look cool, and that seems to be as far as they get.

    But what music do you get to hear archtops in anymore?
    I hope some of the budget retro single pickup archtops I see coming out will open more people up to sounds that have nothing to do with humbucker rock.
     
    Antoon likes this.
  20. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Telefied Ad Free Member

    Age:
    61
    Nov 15, 2009
    Austin, Tx
    Looks like major shakeups in the American guitar landscape.
    I have never had the pleasure of owning a Heritage guitar.
    It’s odd that I haven’t, I like to buy the odd “lark” guitar.
    I just never saw one I wanted when I’m shopping.
    Gotta change that.
     
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