Ranch & Coast Magazine

October 2023

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"Who would we sell it to?" Taylor asks. "A company that's smaller? Dumber? Greedier? A corporate private equity that could wring some cash out of it and sell it again? No. How about the people who have worked their whole lives here? Who dedicated their whole lives to this? Yes." Andy Powers is now chief guitar designer, chairman, and CEO. Now 68 and 71, Taylor and Listug are members of the board and senior advisors. Taylor seems more content than excited about hitting the 50-year benchmark next year. "Nope, 50 isn't going to feel much different than 49," Taylor says. "We'll probably celebrate with some 50th anniversary products. It would be stupid not to do that. On October 15, like every year, it'll be Taylor Guitar Day. Back on our 40th anniversary they threw us a big party. But it's really a holiday for us. We'd rather just take the day off." Following whatever fanfare is planned, Taylor expects the business equivalent of an extended encore. One that allows the show to go on for at least another 50 years. Senior year, Taylor made two guitars and a banjo. What's there to learn in college after tripling production like that? For Taylor, apparently, not much. e next chapter of Taylor's life is well documented. He got a job at American Dream, a hippie-ethos music store in Lemon Grove. Soon thereafter, the owner bailed on the business. Taylor, then 19, his friend Kurt Listug, then 21, and a third partner took over the store. Sales were uneven for nearly a decade. Business was rocky, so Listug took control of financial decisions. "We both had sore throats from gulping all the time," Taylor says. "It was really hard. No money, no income, no nothing." Still, Taylor kept perfecting the sound and shapes of his guitars — more learning through hands-on experience. Fast-forward through decades of design innovation, recognition, and prestige. Today, Taylor Guitars has 1,300 employees in its factories in El Cajon and Tecate, Mexico, a distribution warehouse in the Netherlands, and an ebony farm center in Cameroon, Africa. Taylor Guitars owns roughly 40 percent of the acoustic guitar market share. Annual sales are in the area of $150 million. ese days they sell close to 175,000 guitars a year and have put more than two million axes in the hands of strummers worldwide. e frenetic pop phenomenon known as Taylor Swift plays a Taylor guitar. So have myriad artists: Paul McCartney, Dolly Parton, Prince, Zack Brown, Jason Mraz, Jewel, Steve Poltz, Katy Perry, George Strait, Neil Young, Dave Matthews, Tommy Iommi, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Lisa Loeb, Rob omas, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Bonnie Raitt, Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, Billie Eilish, and on and on. Taylor sometimes gets invited backstage to high-profile concerts. He prefers to spend time in El Cajon. e factory is about 15 miles away from Taylor's childhood home. He designed a DIY-er's dream man cave in a building on the company's sprawling property complete with a living room and kitchen (including a wooden table he built) out front, and a garage on steroids in the back populated by tools, various projects, a truck with the hood up, and an RV that Taylor's tinkering with. In October 2024, the company will celebrate its 50th anniversary, but the owners gave their team a gift well ahead of that milestone. In 2021, Taylor and Listug used an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) to transfer complete ownership to their employees. Taylor says he and Listug thought long and hard about what to do with the company they've nurtured and loved for half a century. @ranchandcoast

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