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Questions and Answers with Jeff Strametz, Chief Executive Officer of Boulder Creek Guitars
Q: How did you get into the guitar business?
A: I got into the business back in 2004. At the time, I had a music academy, and one of my students was the owner of a high-tech company in the Bay area. He had a friend with an idea for acoustic guitars that he felt was patentable. My student hired me as a consultant, because I had practical music experience and provided my input … and we created designs that led to the start of Boulder Creek. We built prototypes and I started bringing them to the public and playing them in my shows and with notable national acts such as Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift.
This was the start of Boulder Creek in 2006, when I left my real estate business to do this full time.
Q: What is your philosophy behind designing and building guitars?
A: Our perspective at the time we decided to launch the company was to try and design an instrument that sounded like a $3,000 instrument, but for a fraction of the price. Our guitars are built on the idea that we can take the instrument and what was done with pre-war scallop bracing, and improve on its attributes including the sound, tone balance and, sustain.
Mike Shellhammer, who had come up with the concepts behind our patents had worked with Ovation, Takamine and other guitar companies in the acoustic space, so he was very familiar with the people who were instrumental in developing that business. This provided the backdrop for his vision of where he wanted to take the designs.
When we set out to design the USA guitars, we considered some of the top, higher-end brands including Santa Cruz, Collings, McPherson and Breedlove … we combined all the things they have done well, and incorporated that into the Boulder Creek design.
We had always wanted to have U.S.-built product, and we researched and set out to do this from the very beginning. But because our design was completely radical and different, it made sense to go to market with an imported product … in order to prove the concept. We didn’t want to kick off with a $3,000-$5,000 guitar without having first tested the market. We’ve taken careful steps to get here and now that our brand is established and players are loving the results of our technology, we are ready to enter the higher-end market.
Q: How did you find Kevin Corcoran?
A: Kevin and I became friends when he owned a very high-end acoustic guitar shop in Gilroy, CA. He became one of the top dealers for many of the most highly respected brands on the market. He was very successful because of his desire to get quality instruments into the hands of musicians. We became good friends prior to the birth of Boulder Creek. I had been playing a decent quality guitar, a $500 guitar which was the best I could afford while gigging. At that time, Kevin inspired me to invest in my craft and purchase a $2,000 acoustic. This inspired me to play more, since I had made a larger investment in my playing., and I formed some of my vision for Boulder Creek – building high quality guitars for a lower price..
Kevin sold his store and formed his own guitar company, Corcoran Guitars, focused on building high-end acoustics. He is a master woodworker, and he wanted to take his craft and apply it to the guitar space. Kevin enjoyed building these beautiful guitars in the $6,000 – $7,000 range.
As I stepped in and purchased Boulder Creek, I started to speak with Kevin about building a made in the USA, limited addition line … to take what has been successful to us in the middle market and apply this to the higher-end, targeting discernable collectors.
I so respect Kevin’s attention to detail. He took the patented SBS Bracing that we had, and he started experimenting with it. He actually came up with ways to improve our bracing to maximize the potential with the USA Limited Series. More on this, in a follow-up session with Kevin.
Q: Who has influenced your guitar playing?
A: My most major influences are Jim Croce and James Taylor. I tend to be a finger-style player, and I enjoy songwriters and the guitar style they bring. Simon & Garfunkel., Harry Chapin, Don McLean … the music that created the lasting memories. I also like rock bands like the Eagles, Little River Band, Boston, Kansas … musical groups that created iconic, powerful and lasting music.
My goal in the music industry is not to be another guitar company … but to provide quality instruments that inspire people to create music and touch other people’s lives.
Q: How do you spend your time when you’re not running the company?
A: I gig a lot.. At times, I’ve done 70-90 shows a year. I love to get out and play music. I’ve played drums my entire life, so I sit in with a bunch of bands in addition to my own acoustic duo with my wife Juli. I am an outdoorsman, I like to hike and flyfish and spend time my family.