Turning a guitar-building passion into a business

CALGARY — In four years, Kevin Gullion has built upwards of 400 guitars in his garage.

He makes all kinds, but mainly electric because that’s what he likes.

“When the new year hit, I was going to open a shop and have a retail space and go full on professional business and then COVID-19 hit and it put a pin in my plans for now,” said Gullion.

After spending two decades working as a rural water treatment technician he made the switch to hand crafting one-of-a-kind chairs and tables from wood he reclaimed from farm buildings, then he turned to guitars.

“I was surfing around on Pinterest one day (in 2016) and I saw a barn wood guitar,” said Gullion. “I thought to myself, ‘That’s kind of cool, I think I can make one of those,’ and that’s where it all started I made one and it kind of morphed from there.”

He admits there was a learning curve and that’s reflected in the first 100 or so that he produced. But now his hand made instruments are sought after by musicians.

“I’m at the point now where the stuff that I’m building is actually high-end playable instruments that I would put up against anything out there and it’s taken me four years to get there,” said Gullion. “It’s not as easy as it might seem to build a playable instrument.”

The brand he’s chosen is ‘The New Vintage’ because the products he makes his new instruments with is reclaimed wood or from old furniture.

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“Sometimes people donate stuff to me. I dumpster dive on occasion when I see wood that might work for something so pretty much everywhere I can find it,” said Gullion. “I find the old barn wood is very resonant wood. It’s dry (and) it’s stable because it’s been in or on the barn for hundreds of years.”

Gullion says when the pandemic hit Calgary he produced over a dozen guitars and all of them sold quickly.

“They were gone as fast as I could post them,” said Gullion. “All 16 of them went during that lock down period. People were bored, they wanted instruments, they wanted to play, maybe take up an instrument, learn.”

His custom-made guitars sell anywhere from $500 to $2,500 depending on what people want. If they’re special-ordered the price goes up. But Gullion says even at these prices customers are getting a bargain.

“I think my prices are kind of low,” said Gullion. “It’s cost recovery right now until I can turn it into a full-time business so it keeps my prices down, it keeps them moving so that I can build more.”

Dave Hirschman arrived in Calgary in March and his collection of over 20 guitars stayed at his home in New York. Hirschman is a professional guitar player and needed a quality instrument here.

“I play anything from big bands to rock and roll groups to solo including back ground solo guitar at private events jazz combos,” said Hirschman. “I’m kind of a journeyman.”

The musician connected with Gullion and found a guitar made out of reclaimed barn wood.

“It was like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes at a shoe store,” said Hirschman. “I knew it was for me and the more I played it the more I enjoyed it.”

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Gullion says he will revisit his dream of opening a brick-and-mortar wood shop and retail guitar store in 2021.

Learn more about The New Vintage online.

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