KALAMAZOO, MI – Craftsmen have been making guitars and stringed instruments in Kalamazoo for more than 100 years.
That is being celebrated Friday and Saturday, Sept. 8 and 9, at the epicenter of that work here, the 225 Parsons St. building.
The building, which is home to Heritage Guitar Inc., is also the original home of Gibson Guitars, which built guitars and mandolins that have been the preferred instruments of many famous musicians since the 1950s. Over the years, the factory has attracted lots of famous musicians, primarily to collect instruments that were made for them.
The historic, three-story portion of the Parsons Street structure, which was expanded over the years, was home to Gibson for 82 years before it stopped production here in 1984 and relocated to Nashville, Tenn.
Guitar-making continued at the factory, however, done by several of the skilled guitar-makers who opted not to relocate. They formed Heritage Guitar in 1985 and have continued to make hand-crafted instruments that are finding more customers as marketing and sales efforts grow.
The history of the building was revisited last year when it was feared that owners 225 Parsons LLC and managers PlazaCorp Realty Advisors Inc. would tear down the factory’s deteriorated brick smokestack. Engineers feared the smokestack might fall.
They have started a multimillion-dollar renovation of 225 Parsons, a structure that houses another business, Forensic Fluids Laboratories, and more than 167,000 square feet of industrial space that has accommodated a mixture of uses and other tenants over many years.
Heritage Guitar is inviting the community to visit as it celebrates “the vibrancy of our local community, the resilient Kalamazoo spirit and the craftsmanship of the Heritage Guitar team.”
Here’s what’s happening:
-Friday, Sept. 8 — Tours of the facility to meet the original guitar builders, get access to the factory floor and see historical artifacts. A VIP dinner event is also planned.
-Saturday, Sept. 9 — A public celebration with live music, interactive booths, child-friendly activities, historical display and complimentary food and drinks. According to information provided by Heritage, it will allow visitors to trace the history of the site from its original Gibson days to Heritage today. Spokesmen will also explain how new life is into the building and provide updates on the revitalization project.