We traveled to San Diego this week to visit Taylor Guitars, and, as usual, I came away feeling very inspired by how this company does business. Not only are they successful enough to have just purchased a corporate jet (no more TSA for these guys!), but they've also been doing (for a number of years now) a very eco-minded "fair trade" arrangement with the dwellers of a small village in the jungle of Honduras, who supply Taylor with all of the Honduran mahogany they use. The timbers they process from the select trees they cut (which are all given GPS coordinates so that everything is CITES certified) are carted out by donkeys some 20 miles though the jungle (and across at least one river) to reach a place where roads exist and trucks can take over. You can see a photo of the trek in the latest issue of Taylor's quarterly magazine, Wood & Steel.
Another interesting story is how Bob Taylor sought to find a young, experienced guitar builder who would have the skills and smarts needed to drive the company in the decades to come. The person he ultimately chose for this task turned out to be a local San Diegoan named Andy Powers, who's not only a gifted 28-year-old guitar builder, but is also a fine guitar player who "moonlights" by backing Jason Mraz. The story goes that Andy met Bob at a music store when he was eight years old and asked him some questions about how to make a guitar. Taylor encouraged him to try making a ukulele. With his dad's help, Andy built one, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Funny thing is that Andy never saw Bob again until he and Mraz showed up recently at the Taylor booth at NAMM. Now he has his own shop at the Taylor factory, where he's currently engaged in making prototypes for what will become a new series of nylon-string guitars. We got to play some of his instruments and they were quite amazing. We'll be on the case with a review when they are finally put into production, which we're told will be at least a year from now.