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Legendary San Diego guitar maker Taylor Guitars makes a historic shift

KFMB San Diego logo KFMB San Diego 1/16/2021 Tim Blodgett
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It’s a sound that Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug have been perfecting for 46 years. The pitch and tone of a finely tuned guitar.

“We had a sound that was different.” Says founder Bob Taylor “It was more brilliant and clear.”

This is how two San Diego entrepreneurs turned an old guitar repair shop in Lemon Grove, into one of the biggest and most recognized names in guitars.

Bob would do the designing and Kurt would run the books. The pair met at The American Dream guitar shop in Lemon Grove. They bought out the owner for a cool $3,700 dollars and the pair had a shop to create what they’ve always dreamed of. Though Taylor Guitars was born, the first few years were tough.

a group of people standing in front of a building © Provided by KFMB San Diego

“We were poor as a church mouse for, twelve years, wouldn’t you say Kurt?” Taylor said.

“Hanging on by a threat just trying to keep from going out of business. We had bills two years past due. But we didn’t give up," Listug said.

It wasn’t until the 90’s that acoustic guitar started coming back in a big way, that’s when Taylor’s sales blew up. 

Between 1990 and 2000, the company grew from two million in sales a year to more than fifty. This year, Listug says the company is making over $130 million in sales. But as the pair got older, they had real decisions to make for the company.

a man standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera © Provided by KFMB San Diego

“As of December 31, Bob and I no longer own any of Taylor guitars. It’s all in our employee’s hands.” Says Listug.

Instead of selling Taylor to a corporation, they put the company into the hands of their 1200 employees in San Diego and Tecate. The 46 years of success that Bob and Kurt have had at Taylor is now passed down to the people who craft these guitars daily. Employees who can now say, they work for themselves.

“When employees come and they’re happy, they feel like they have a say, feel like they are contributing to the success, morale is really high,” Taylor said.

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