These bands and performers have one thing connecting them to San Luis Obispo: National Reso-Phonic Guitars.
The private company, owned by Eric Smith and Don Young, has been manufacturing resonator guitars and other resonator instruments in San Luis Obispo since 1990. Young and McGregor Gaines founded the company in 1989, operating out of a garage in Long Beach before moving the business to San Luis Obispo, Smith said.
The pair had resurrected the original company, National Guitars, which shut down in the 1950s, according to Smith, who has been with National Reso-Phonic for 23 years.
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National Reso-Phonic is a niche company, manufacturing resonator instruments — guitars, mandolins, ukuleles, basses and banjos — used by musicians all over the world. It produces about 1,000 guitars annually, selling only through established dealers operating out of brick-and-mortar stores, Smith said. There are about 126 dealers, and more than half of the company’s product is shipped internationally to such countries as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and Japan.
The company is profitable, with nearly $3 million in annual instrument sales, Smith said.
“We’ve grown about 5 to 7 percent on an annual basis,” he said. “We started with one employee, and now 20 years later, we have about 20.”
But National Reso-Phonic has no intention of growing too fast or too large, Smith said. They want to remain a boutique business with specialized clientele.
“We’re at a six- to 10-month backorder on most instruments,” he said. “It takes about six weeks to produce one. We manufacture everything. The only item we don’t produce is the guitar tuners. And as much as possible, we use machinery made in the USA.”