ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY, NOV. 11- In a Sept. 19, 2012 photo, Heritage Guitar employee Ray Noud starts the fret installation on a guitar fretboard at the company’s facility in Kalamazoo, Mich., a former Gibson Guitar production facility. The Heritage company still uses much of the old equipment and machinery to produce their highly regarded and hand-crafted guitars, but on a much smaller scale than Gibson. (AP Photo/Lansing State Journal, Rod Sanford)
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — Back in the days when industry of all kinds began to flourish in Michigan, Gibson built a guitar factory in Kalamazoo.
The year was 1917. The factory at 225 Parsons St. was a “daylight” building, with large, high windows and a smokestack with the company’s name set in white bricks.
Over the years, skilled crafters built thousands of instruments there: mandolins, banjos and guitars, including the venerated Les Paul solid-body electric guitar. They kept producing fine instruments even as the firm was sold to one out-of-state interest, then another.
But in 1974, Gibson built another plant in Nashville, Tenn. And in the fall of 1984, Gibson closed the Kalamazoo plant.
That might have been the end of the story about guitar production in Kalamazoo, except for a handful of dedicated craftsmen who simply didn’t want to move south.