Southbound Custom, LLC is 100% focused on paint. We finish guitars. However, our history contains much more than paint. Read on to see how we began, grew, evolved, and eventually became an exceptional group of craftsmen who deliver the finest finishes and customer service in the business.
Our company was founded by owner Steven A. Fazio as a guitar-finishing business. Two of our first large-scale clients were Guitar Mill (Murfreesboro, TN) and Gibson (Nashville, TN). These accounts made up the bulk of our workload early on and gave us a deep appreciation for swamp ash and all those great “California” solid-body shapes and colors. But as Guitar Mill began to move their finish work in-house and those other guys toiled fruitlessly to locate their checkbook, we focused on acquiring new clients. This necessitated the construction of the first SBC website. Upon the site going live, the interest in our services was immediately apparent. The result challenged our then-modest, original, home workshop, as we received emails, phone calls, and orders from clients all over the country.
Two years later, we moved into a large industrial space (our current digs), began building Red Special replicas for RS Custom Guitars (Spring Hill, TN), finished hundreds of guitars, and gained a critical understanding of how best to meet and exceed the expectations of our customers. Our building at 1301 Pillow Street in Nashville is home to two other businesses: a cabinet shop and a CNC job shop. If you’ve been by, you know it’s a woodworker’s paradise, even if it does appear a bit, let’s say, eccentric. It’s been good to us though, and the help from our building’s owner and CAD/CAM expert, Andrew Caldwell, has led to fruitful collaborations between our two businesses. The first of these was the aforementioned Red Special project. We have built more than 100 of these iconic guitars in variations ranging from the original to carved tops, acoustic/electrics and even double necks! Our work with Mr. Caldwell produced many other instruments; the most noteworthy include the Kramer Pacer Reissue, Saint Blues Workshop Series, and Gruhn Electric Model.
We grew to employ a staff of full- and part-time employees during the height of our manufacturing, which ran into early 2009. At this time we realized that many of the companies we had worked for employed business models that were significantly out of step with our philosophy; it has been said that the guitar industry demands perfection for a buck-fifty. At SBC, we believe that any individual who has the discipline and talent to achieve a master-level of artistry in their craft should be revered along with the works they create. Only through a mutual respect between artisan and client can the highest quality work be produced. This ideal was the reason that we decided to stop producing instruments for companies that cared little about the craft and too much about the bottom line. Our focus shifted to creating an environment that would yield the absolute highest quality while fostering creativity and customer involvement. This meant dealing with more individuals than companies, ultimately deepening our understanding of seeing and bringing a customer’s vision to life.
Unfortunately this change, coupled with the economic recession, meant that our staff and business model had to be restructured. From late 2009 to early 2014, Fazio worked to transform the company from general lutherie with a finish emphasis, to finishing alone. As this return to our roots became more and more our singular focus, our understanding of the processes deepened. Extreme attention to detail and customer focus became the heart of our routine. We worked with many wonderful builders and clients to produce a product that was consistently exceptional and always sought to make each job better than the last.
This period ended as the need arose to increase output. But how could we “meticulously handcraft finishes” in bulk? The solution is at the heart of what has, for the years since, made us increasingly successful:
Focus on nothing but paint.
Driven by this idea, we began hiring personnel and building clientele. We built on the finishing processes that had been developed and proven over nearly ten years. We created a shop infrastructure that was scalable so that as our workload increased, it was straight-forward to increase production.
We continue today in the spirit of constant improvement, but not at the expense of changing something that works. Finding, testing and using the best materials is important, but constant improvement as craftsmen and attention to our customers are the foundation of our brand. Our current client list includes average Joes, professionals, stars and small- and big-name builders. We’re working hard to grow that list. We believe that if you honor us with your business, you’ll not only be glad you did but you’ll wonder why someone would go anywhere else!