Martin hopes for nod to resume guitar building

It looks like C.F. Martin and Co. will soon resume making its iconic guitars at its Nazareth, PA, factory. 

Manufacturing, shipping, and repair operations came to a halt on March 19, when Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, ordered all non-essential business to cease in-person work because of the coronavirus.

Since then, 49 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have been removed from the most-restrictive “red” phase of Wolf’s orders. But that list doesn’t include Northampton County, where Martin is based. 

That should soon change. The governor recently announced that the remaining counties should move from red to yellow by June 5. That would allow most businesses to reopen, provided they follow requirements from the Centers for Disease Control regarding masks, social distancing, hand washing, temperature checks for employers, and how to respond if an employee tests positive for the virus. The guitar company has already drawn up a required plan for complying with the CDC edicts, so getting back to business should be relatively speedy once the county’s status changes.

If he follows his previous pattern, Wolf will announce this Friday that moving the final counties into yellow status will take place the following Friday.

There is also a chance that Martin will get a reprieve even sooner than the end of next week. Two state senators representing the area wrote to the governor on May 21, asking that he grant a waiver allowing an immediate return to manufacturing. Such waivers can be granted at any time.

Some waivers have been granted since the mid-March stay at home orders were issued, but the rate of issuance seems to have slowed since counties started reopening.

The May 21 request from Sen. Mario Scavello, a Republican, and Sen. Lisa Boscala, a Democrat, said Martin was at a “serious disadvantage” because competitors in California, Arizona, and Maryland have been able to resume operations. They asked Wolf to issue an executive order to allow manufacturing to resume statewide, or for a waiver specific to Martin to be issued immediately. Removing the remaining counties from red status would essentially grant the relief.

In the near term, after the shift to yellow, customer service and marketing representatives will continue working from home, as they have from the start. But the factory floor should soon be humming again. That’s great news for bluegrass pickers and fans of G-runs everywhere, since Martin has been the guitar of choice for most bluegrass pickers at some point in their careers.

A Martin spokesman did not return messages seeking comment by the time this was published. We will update if the company responds and will monitor developments and report back as necessary.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.