Mark and I started MotorAve Guitars in 2002, in Los Angeles CA. At the time we lived on a street called Motor Avenue- from which we took the name. When Mark set out to design and make his own guitars, he was inspired by the design culture that had risen out of post war America. He did not want to copy the classics, but rather to emulate the men who built them. For this reason, MotorAve Guitars are constructed using many of the same old-school methods and materials as the vintage guitars of the 1950's and 1960's. Aside from a few modern conveniences, Mark's tools and techniques are straight out of the workshops of the mid-twentieth century. The results are instruments that even while brand new- have a warm, heirloom quality. In our first website in 2002, Mark said that he wanted to build guitars that play like a dream, stay in tune, look a bit dangerous, and age beautifully… and this has been our mantra ever since.
The MotorAve line started slowly. For the first five years, making guitars was really just a side project to Mark's full time guitar repair business. Smarter people would have focused on that business, but Mark is motivated by less practical things and I am practical enough to know that I can't make him repair guitars forever. And as things would have it… our old building was condemned not long after we moved. By the time we left our shop on Sunset Blvd- the neighborhood had already begun to change. What had once been a couple blocks of guitar shops, burger joints, and dives… was already becoming ground zero for brunch and yoga.
We moved here (Durham, NC) in late 2007 and it has taken this long to get to 100 guitars. Being self-financed is a tricky business model. Without borrowing money, it was difficult to invest in equipment- and so Mark did things almost completely by hand. For instance, Mark spent years sanding large wood blanks by hand with giant aluminum sanding planes of his own making- before we finally got a thickness sander. And there have been a hundred such improvements, big and small, in our tooling and facilities that have honed his process. While doing things the hard way can be frustrating, we also both acknowledge that there is something special about spending so much time on the fundamentals. Mark's like a sushi cook who was required to make the rice for many years before moving up. His movements are well considered and the amount of care that he puts into each step is exhausting just to watch.
As for my part, my adventures in other peoples small businesses have helped me to develop a wide range of useful skills; but I must admit that playing the guitar is not one of them. You know, I tried to learn back in the 90's- but who was I fooling. I can't be trusted to play a kazoo well. So, if you decide to contact us, please understand that any response you get from me is also from Mark. We talk about all of your questions and I review all technical points of my answers with him. But that said… you will not get an email from him personally. If you want it from the horses mouth- you're going to have to call. Send me an email and I'll give you his cell number. He writes very well- but it takes him too long, and he is better off spending his time working on guitars.
So, here is the part where I try to explain this strange business model we have worked out. While our ordering process is not unprecedented in todays small luthier market, we realize that it is not a common or convienent way of doing business. For this reason... I would like to give you a few answers to a some of our frequently asked questions.
Mark and I thank you for taking time the find out more about MotorAve Guitars. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.