Behind the scenes at one of the largest boutique guitar manufacturers in Texas… Collings Guitars
WE ROLLED into the Collings Guitars complex west of Austin, Texas, on Highway 290 the morning of ‘Salsa Day’. It was the day when employees would bring in their own secret recipe salsa for judging by their peers and company management and, we suppose, ultimately reign as the guitar maker’s Salsa Champion, at least for 2014. Regrettably, we were not asked to judge.
Collings’ campus is made up of unmarked white buildings on a pretty good sized piece of land blanketed with wild grasses and dotted with oak trees. Walking in the main entrance, we were greeted with a well-appointed reception area with a meeting room off to the left.
That room’s hand-built, solid wood conference table is representative of everything Collings stands for – the best quality materials, uncompromised craftsmanship and a meticulous attention to detail. The buzz in the building is strong – a positive sign for the veteran luthier who, like many, is still trying to shake off the last, lingering effects of the 2008 recession.
“Everything is doing ok,” says founder Bill Collings regarding the current state of play. “We have good people. We have a great place to work. It is better now than it’s been in the past five years, I’ll tell you that. 2008… that was tough. It killed people. It wouldn’t have killed us if it didn’t kill all of the dealers. There are some dealers that are really back now, but there are some who just haven’t seemed to recover. I’m not sure what that is about.”
Currently, Collings employs around 95 people. Historically an acoustic guitar-focused operation, the company kicked off a successful mandolin business in 1995. Ten years later, Collings added electrics to its roster. When the recession started to choke off sales, the company added lower cost items, like ukeleles, to its offerings with hopes to ride out the storm and maintain its core staff by keeping them busy.