Eastman and Bourgeois announce new partnership

Bourgeois Guitars and Eastman Music have announced a new partnership that offers advantages to both companies, while allowing Dana Bourgeois to continue making guitars as he has been in his Maine facility. The structure of their arrangement is an interesting one, and requires a bit of background to explain.

Dana has been building guitars since the late 1970s, when he did design consulting with Martin for an Eric Schoenberg OM-model instrument. Eventually he and Eric launched Schoenberg Guitars in 1986, but Dana had his eye on his own solo venture. He started Bourgeois Guitars in 1993, and saw rapid success with his high end, professional flat top guitars, especially when Bryan Sutton signed up as an endorser. Bryan had purchased a Bourgeois dreadnaught before he met Dana, and contacted him directly to talk about an endorsement.

Sutton was working with Ricky Skaggs at the time, and before long, Dana was making a Skaggs signature model as well. The high visibility of Skaggs and Sutton in both the country and bluegrass markets had the company on top of the world.

Problems started in ’99 when Bourgeois recognized that he needed to find an international distributor. He struck a deal with a Japanese company, Akai, who took on two of his most popular guitars, but soon they stopped ordering new instruments, which threw Dana and his company into bankruptcy and liquidation. In 2000, Dana was back again, with new partners who formed the Pantheon Guitars company. Things had been going quite well for Bourgeois, and the next chapter involves the partnership with Eastman, who has just purchased Pantheon Guitars.

Eastman is a large company, with penetration into the bluegrass world with their guitar and mandolin division. They have also recently begun building banjos, and have plans to expand in that area early next year. The Eastman pattern is to coordinate with highly-skilled luthiers in the US and Europe, and then produce approved, less expensive versions of their instruments in Asia to offer more affordable examples of their designs.

Dana has explained this new partnership in a letter to guitar players which is posted on his web site. He says that the most important part of the new ownership structure for fans of Bourgeois Guitars is that he will remain as CEO, and current COO Christopher Fleming will stay on as well. James Cook will likewise remain as Sales Manager.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to share some exciting news.

For decades, Bourgeois Guitars has combined the highest quality tonewoods, uncompromising craftsmanship and a deep passion for music to produce some of the world’s finest and most innovative steel string guitars. Over the years we have been fortunate to enjoy steady growth. We believe, however, that the world market is changing. After extensive study, we’ve concluded that partnership with a proven international distribution and manufacturing company offers significant strategic opportunities that cannot otherwise be grown from within.

For several years we have been on the lookout for the right partner, and, moreover, one whose core values are closely aligned with those of our own. Today I am pleased to announce, with excitement and pride, that Bourgeois Guitars has entered into a strategic partnership with Eastman Music.

Eastman is a truly impressive company. Well known to many of you as a producer of archtop, steel string, classical and electric guitars, Eastman enjoys a long-standing reputation for providing outstanding value, quality and service to the musical instrument community. Less well known, Eastman is one of the largest producers of violin family instruments in the world. And with its other boutique manufacturing partners, Eastman also makes some of the world’s finest woodwind and brasswind instruments.

As you may or may not know, I’ve always had partners. Years ago Bourgeois Guitars merged with Pantheon Guitars to produce acoustic steel-string instruments under the Bourgeois name. In a nutshell, I have simply traded my former partners for Eastman. Moving forward, I will retain an ownership interest in Bourgeois Guitars and will remain as CEO. Our entire team will continue to produce acoustic guitars of the highest quality in our Lewiston, Maine, workshop. US distribution will continue to be handled through our Lewiston office. Eventually, overseas distribution will be managed by Eastman.

We have always held great concern that, at an average street price of about $6500, a Bourgeois guitar is beyond the reach of 95% of all guitar players. Plans are underway to remedy this situation with the introduction of a new series of acoustic guitars co-produced by Bourgeois and Eastman. Bourgeois will be responsible for design, materials selection, voicing, setup, and quality control, and Eastman will contribute efficient manufacturing and sourcing capabilities and expertise in global distribution. This project builds upon a successful model pioneered by Eastman and its other high end manufacturing partners. Additional new products, including Bourgeois archtops, mandolins, and US made Eastman acoustics, are also on the drawing board.

Speaking for all of us at Bourgeois Guitars, we wish to thank you for your continuing support. We look forward to sharing an engaging and exciting future with all of you.”

It appears that the well being of Bourgeois Guitars is assured, with tremendous growth potential worldwide.

Well done Eastman and Bourgeois!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.