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St. Louis group opens up the world of boutique guitar-making

A Gretsch guitar in David Anderson's shop he works on for Tritone Guitars
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio
A Gretsch guitar in David Anderson's shop

This weekend local guitar makers will leave the digital world behind, meet with each other, and invite the public to step inside the world of boutique guitar production.

According to organizer David Anderson of Tritone Guitars, the first St. Louis guitar expo in more than a decade will bring an extra dimension to the St. Louis guitar gear scene.

“You’re only going to take the online virtual realm so far. There’s a point where you still have to go ‘I need to be face to face with somebody,’” said Anderson.

Saturdays event, the Tritone Guitars Gear Expo, will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Metropolitan Art Lofts in Grand Center. The public can view work from roughly 30 local boutique guitar and guitar-gear makers. People will also have the chance to speak with the makers themselves. 

Chris Kroenlein ofK-Line Guitars helped put the event together with Anderson. He said the experience emphasizes the bond formed between musicians, makers and their equipment.

Gretsch detail from David Anderson's Tritone Guitars basement workshop
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold l St. Louis Public Radio
Gretsch detail from David Anderson's Tritone Guitars basement workshop

“When you pick ‘em up and you play ‘em, it’s a totally different experience,” said Kroenlein, “you understand then why I exist and why I do what I do, and why I love to do what I do.”

Kroenlein and Anderson are both members of the St. Louis guitar tech community which has a strong presence online through forums and social media groups. Both men often deal with customers, other gear enthusiasts and makers through email and phone calls. When Anderson proposed the idea of coming together for a show –which he stresses will not just be a flea-market – he was bowled over by the outpouring of support for the idea.

“I put it out there and said ‘What would you guys think if we put this together?’ and everyone jumped on it,” said Anderson. “They wanted to do it and wanted to be a part of it.”

Although both Anderson and Kroenlein built successful businesses using the digital model, they welcome the chance to really interact with musicians and geek-out on guitars on a one-on-one basis. For Kroenlein, meeting face to face adds to the guitar’s narrative. 

“They’re not just buying a guitar, they’re buying a story,” said Kroenlien, “My story and also the story of the guitar for their friends. Guitar players are like that. We like to talk about our gear.”

It’s a story people will have a chance to learn about first-hand, Saturday.