- Written by Matt Parish
- Published: 14 October 2013
‘The Whole Deal’
“When I started in 2009, I didn’t have my own workshop to build instruments, so I went to the top workshop in China and designed the guitars and brought them in [to the U.S.] and sold them,” explains Bedell. “But my real passion was to get to build and design my own instruments, choose my wood, the whole deal.”
The acquisition of Breedlove Guitars in November of 2010 afforded Bedell that opportunity. “That gave me a workshop for me to do my Bedell work in,” he says. “We spent the first year righting the company, getting much better production, workshop flow, setting up consumer services – doing all the things to make it a very professional company. Then I realized that if we were going to meet the potential that we had, we needed another building, so I bought a new factory building in June of 2012 and last fall we got moved in and set up and we’ve organized a separate production area for Bedell. I’ve come up with a whole branding position which basically is building incredible, fairly traditional-style acoustic guitars, but where I’m outsourcing wood consistent with my stewardship values.”
The big payoff from all the changes in production is going to begin to become apparent at the upcoming Winter NAMM Show in January. Bedell explains: “We’re going to track each piece of wood that goes into these instruments. So for our 2014 product line line, you’ll actually get the story of where the woods came from, how they were harvested, and the paperwork for being able to travel with them, so you’ll have the whole story to connect you from when that tree germinated – 500 years ago, whenever it might have been – all the way to it being your partner to make your music. Isn’t that fun?
“And we’re going to build all Bedell Guitars, starting for 2014, in the United States. So we’re bringing all the jobs back to the U.S. and the guitars are 100 percent made in the U.S. – they’re not with parts being made in different countries or whatever; they’re totally fabricated in Bend, Oregon.”
American-made, quality instruments don’t come cheap, of course, but in keeping with Bedell’s sincere passion for helping others experience the joy of music making, the new instruments aren’t priced out of this world. “The lower-cost guitars will MAP at $1,499 and then we’ll go all the way up to some very exotic, incredible custom instruments,” he explains.
Precious Materials, ‘Green’ Practices
Yet another recent development that Tom is enthusiastic about is one that will allow his organization to use materials that are becoming more and more difficult to acquire. “One of the really exciting things is that I was able to acquire 3,000 sets of Brazilian rosewood,” he says. “The wood is just incredible. One of the trees we have is named ‘Milagro’ and it was buried in a beach in Brazil for 350 years when it was discovered 50 years ago. It was then shipped to a wood broker in Spain and they cut it into tone sets and then had just stored it. Just recently the Spanish government authorized the sale and export of Brazilian rosewood if it had been legally in the country pre-1992, pre-CITES Treaty. I was able to buy it all and now I’m one of the few people who are able to actually build Brazilian rosewood instruments, and they can be exported to Europe because the EU rules state that, unless the rosewood was in Europe pre-1992, you can’t ship it there.”
To compliment the trove of Brazilian rosewood, Bedell will be utilizing other natural materials of the highest quality, which – significantly – are gathered without causing harm to the environment. “I was just in Alaska,” he says. “We’re going to use all-salvaged Sitka in our Bedells. These are 400 to 600 year old trees and it’s just a crime to be clear-cutting any of those down. What we’re doing is salvaging them from the forest floor, so we’re actually not cutting down any trees. We’re still using the precious wood that’s going to make outstanding instruments, but we’re getting it in ways that don’t harm forests.”
Living the Dream
Tom Bedell is living proof that a positive attitude and a vested interest in “doing what’s right” can be a successful business model. “We’re basically doubling our sales this year,” he states. “That would be all three brands – the total workshop, not just Bedell. We’re experiencing a really dynamic acoustic marketplace, with increased demand for made-in-U.S.A. products. We’re really excited about bringing jobs back to America, and building an effective, green workshop – this is my dream. This is why I got back in the business. It wasn’t a profit motive; it was a lifestyle motive.
“It’s just been a wonderful experience. It’s such a great industry, everyone is so friendly and helpful. The acoustic guitar business is very much a gentlemaen’s business – the other companies help me, and I hope I help them back. We can all win together. We’re all trying to do the same thing, which is to build incredible instruments that help people create wonderful music. It’s just neat to get to be part of it.”