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This is an old article
Taken from 20th Century Guitar Magazine
originally published in 1997
Imagine it was 100 years ago and you heard that a company named Oldsmobile was building something called the automobile and thought that was a good idea so you got a hold of one and started advertising them for sale. Now, some may have thought you just a bit crazy. After all, how many people were really going to buy such a thing? The horseless carriage was just a passing phase. But that is, in essence, just what John Kinnemeyer did in the late eighties with a book called American Guitars by Tom Wheeler. "I got a copy of the book and thought that more people would be interested in it, but where would they find it? So, I started running an ad in Guitar Player magazine for the book. At the time there was nothing else like it around." Even though the author of the book was, at the time, the editor of the magazine, Guitar Player was not doing anything about the book. And so this is what started Kinnemeyer on the road to becoming the largest and most successful mail order book seller in the collectible guitar market.
"I always liked guitars. I remember in grade school having the 1969 Fender catalog inside one of my books. While all of the other guys were sneaking around with Playboy, I was looking at guitars." It is this affection for the instrument that lead John to American Guitars and finally into the guitar market. There was one other factor that spurred John on as well, and that was guitar shows. The first one he attended was Guitar Digest show in Columbus, Ohio. "The first show I attended was also the last show I went to as a spectator. After that, I always took a booth. I would bring the few books that were out at the time, American Guitars, the Gibson book, Guitar I.D. and the Strat book, as well as a bunch of parts I had collected - about enough to fill one coin display case. Since then, we have done as many as fourty shows in a single year." John does between twenty-five and thirty shows a year now and even the show promoters know his presence adds to the success of their shows. By 1991, John took the plunge, leaving his full-time job and devoted all of his attention to JK Lutherie.
Doing these shows is no easy task when you stop to consider the amount of product JK offers for sale. "We carry about 1000 instructional video titles alone. We have somewhere between eight hundred and one thousand book titles in stock and at the shows we do a large "guitar parts" business." You can also find posters, post cards, new and reprinted catalogs and just about anything else dealing with collectible guitars at the JK booth.
A firm believer is advertising - it is hard to imagine any publication about guitars without a JK ad- JK Lutherie is also taking full advantage of the newest medium, the world wide web. "Our sight is working great. It is a very comfortable medium to do business in. Though our web page is advertised, I think the most exciting thing is when someone just stumbles onto the website. Just the other day, a woman in California who was given a Duo Sonic but knew nothing about the instrument found our sight surfing the web and ordered a 1960s reproduction Fender catalog so she could read up on the guitar. There have been other instances like that as well. That's when it is fun and really works."
It would be down-right criminal to talk about JK Lutherie and not mention the true force behind the company: Rhonda Kinnemeyer, who not only had to put up with the initial struggle of a start-up business but can be found at many of the guitar shows doing everything from sales to setting up and tearing down the booth. This, of course, while raising their five (yikes) children, feeding the cows (we have a picture of this but she would kill us if we ran it. Of course, public sentiment would prevail and if we got enough letters... ), and maintaining the household. As they say, behind every successful man...
Also, we would be remiss if we didn't mention Matt Lawson who has been with John since the beginning. "Matt is the backbone of the technical side for us. He handles the web site and advertising, as well as handling the phones and taking orders. He's very knowledgeable about guitars and the products we carry, which is important. This is really a guitar shop selling books not a book shop selling books about guitars."
Guitar shows, advertising, mailing lists and the National Instrument Exchange may sound like the right ingredients for a successful business but that is only half the story. John Kinnemeyer is one of the true gentlemen in a market sometimes darkened by unscrupulous dealings, misrepresentations and ethical standards that would make Nixon seem like a saint. It is John and those like him that hold the market together and make it a more enjoyable place for all of us to participate, a market John cares about very much. "I think it is important that we all stay focused. We should all be concerned about keeping the interest in vintage guitars alive and find ways to open up the market to a new and larger audience."
So, if it is books, videos, old magazines, parts, posters, catalogs and just about anything else guitar-related you can think of, give JK a call, why go anywhere else?
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JK Lutherie11115 Sand RunHarrison, OH 45030