Denver’s Local Luthiers

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Posted Mon, Oct 24, 2011

Brian Tschabrun toils carefully over a guitar neck he designed and is building. Photo by Alex Baskett

DENVER — At a time when the career dreams of more and more Americans in their 20’s are being put off for more practical pursuits green shoots of hope still exist for those willing to carve their own path.

Two young Luthiers have cut out a nitch for themselves in Denver, making a home for their business among artists and photographers in an unlikely spot in town.
The two-man team of Broken Bridges guitar repair have cashed in on their love of six-stings and through some clever marketing now run a successful repair business, just a few years after graduating from the Roberto Venn school of Luthiery in Arizona.
At a time when nearly every field from legal and medical practice to hair braiding are monitored and regulated by the government, Broken Bridges have found a way to start from the very bottom and work their way in to a successful career. When Brian Tschabrun first graduated, he worked for Michas Custom Guitars building copies of Jerry Garcia’s signature axe.
“It was a good gig, but when the previous owner’s wife got knocked up, he had to get a straight job with insurance,” Tschabrun said.
After Michas went under, Tschabrun teamed up with his old classmate Zach Muffoletto, who moved out to Denver from Boston. Proving that anything can be recycled, even a business, and Broken Bridges officially opening shop in August of 2010 piecing together what could be salvaged from Michas.
Despite an obscure location, tucked into an industrial district on the west side of I-25, Broken Bridges has managed to stay busy through a summer when the rest of the economy seemed trapped in a giant jar of molasses.

Tschabrun (left) and Muffoletto (right) take a short break in between tasks, catching a smoke outside of a shed they use as a paint booth. Photo by Alex Baskett

“We had a guy design our website who knew how to work Google Analytics, and we ended up as the first link for guitar repair,” Tschabrun said.
The converted quansa hut that shelters Broken Bridges as well as a half a dozen other businesses and various tenants feels more like a commune than a strip mall. With a bright coat of yellow paint covering the buildings and an abandoned Stratocaster nailed to the front, the location proves a fit setting for the two musicians turned craftsmen.
“We’re like a little family. You should have been here for the fourth (of July),” Tschabrun said. “We all just sat around drinking PBR, bullshitting and watching the fireworks.”
The community bulletin board, shared by the building advertises all the services provided by other tenants, as well as a few others, like yoga classes and tantric couples’s therapy.
Every new business has its bumps. When repairing a musician’s prized possession, each one can seem like a tidal wave.
“I was installing new pickups on this telecaster for a guy and chipped the finish,” said Muffoletto. “I was pretty freaked out, but once you put the covers on you couldn’t tell. In the end, the guy didn’t even care.”
The lesson learned was that all waves recede. With a shop full of work to be done, the duo at Broken Bridges will ride the wave they are on as long as they can.
Muffoletto summed it up with a nod of agreement from his partner.
“Yeah this is kind of a dream job”

Muffoletto toils over the body of an electric guitar he is building. Photo by Alex Baskett

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One Response to “Denver’s Local Luthiers”

  1. Nikki Says:

    Really, really interesting. Great story.

    Reply

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