On the same weekend of a Gibson 100th anniversary celebration, Heritage reveals future plans for a ‘landmark music destination’ at the renovated Parsons Street factory site.
SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTO GALLERIES FROM FRIDAY’S VIP PARTY & SATURDAY’S CELEBRATION
The first 100 years at 225 Parsons Street in Kalamazoo saw the birth of Gibson Guitars and the formation and evolution of Heritage Guitar Inc.
If Friday night was any indication, the next 100 years will be about a lot more than just making some of the world’s finest guitars.
Heritage Guitar and building developer PlazaCorp announced Friday as part of a 100th anniversary VIP party that Rolling Stone magazine and BandLab Technologies will partner with them to create “a landmark music destination” in the Northside neighborhood.
Exactly what that partnership will look like hasn’t been fully defined, according to members of the communication team for Heritage, but plans call for a live music entertainment venue, a music instrument store, a space for musicians to try out instruments and rehearse, and potentially, an on-site recording studio.
Officials described it as “a Rolling Stone experience,” along with “a courtyard and cafe/restaurant with a view across the iconic site where people can enjoy a meal and soak in the musical history” of the city.
“We are excited to share that we are working closely with Rolling Stone, the most iconic name in pop culture for 50 years, and have a partnership agreement in place to develop a premium lifestyle offering at 225 Parsons,” PlazaCorp president Jeff Nicholson said in a statement released Friday.
“They share our passion for the location’s history and significance and we are currently in an exploration phase to find operators for these opportunities … which will further cement Kalamazoo as a vibrant and progressive must-visit location.”
Heritage, of course, will continue to crank out its renowned handcrafted guitars, but the idea behind partnering with Rolling Stone and BandLab is to help make the factory a true destination for guitar aficionados and music lovers from across the country.
“When my co-founders and I started this company 32 years ago, we had an idea to build the best handcrafted guitars in the USA,” said Heritage co-founder Jim Deurloo, who began his career as a luthier in Kalamazoo, crafting Gibsons in 1958.
PAYING HOMAGE TO ‘THE WORLD’S FINEST MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS’
“I hoped that we could bring this vision to the world, and with this new partnership in place, we can continue to push awareness of our guitars and love of Heritage.”
Singapore-based BandLab Technologies expects to play a large part in that marketing, using their global reach and rich experience in music retail and distribution to help make the Heritage name well-known worldwide.
“To me, 225 Parsons is one of the most significant establishments in the history of modern music,” said BandLab CEO and founder Meng Ru Kuok. “The world’s finest American-made musical instruments were and continue to be built in this legendary factory. From the moment I saw the iconic smokestack and had a chance to see the Heritage craftsmen in action, I knew that this was something that deserved a wider audience. … We are very excited to be a part of bringing Heritage into new markets and territories.”
In addition to broadening its reach, the new partnerships and ongoing $12 million expansion and renovation of the site should equate to more jobs in Kalamazoo.
“Since we joined forces with the original founders two years ago, I’ve been working hard with the team to improve working conditions and increase efficiency while still maintaining traditional methods and the handcrafted beauty that Heritage Guitar is known for,” said Heritage Guitar owner Archie Leach.
“To us, this is the next logical step in building a sustainable business that can hire more people and ensure the specialist knowledge of Heritage stays in Kalamazoo.”
Heritage is hosting a special 100th anniversary celebration at the plant starting at 11:30 a.m. today (Sept. 9), with performances by Jake Kershaw, Shelby Lentz, Paul Erdma, Rendal Wall, Wild Bill Durkin and Sammy Melchi. Get more information and a schedule online in this Local Spins story.
On Friday night, Heritage threw a VIP party on the site, with performances by Kalamazoo’s Out of Favor Boys and Heritage Guitar artist JL Fulks. Check out the photos here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Heritage/Gibson 100th Anniversary VIP Party (Friday)
Photos by Derek Ketchum