HRIS AND SOPHY DiPinto, both 46, of Collingswood, N.J., are husband-and-wife owners of DiPinto Guitars, in Fishtown. He has been designing and selling guitars for 20 years. She oversees the website, manufacturing and the books. DiPinto's Galaxie 4 Deluxe model was
Guitar Player Magazine's "Editor's Pick" for August. I spoke with Chris.
Q: What was the idea?
A: We opened in 1995 and rented a little store/warehouse at 2nd and Market. I began playing guitar in the early '90s, and Sophy and I started a band, O Mighty Isis. I played guitar, she played drums and we had a female bass. I made a wild guitar and bass and people came up to me after shows and said, 'Can you make me one?' After that, I decided to make guitars for a living.
Q: The startup money?
A: Personal savings. It was under $10,000.
Q: What's the biz do?
A: We make two kinds of guitars. I make handmade ones that cost $3,000 and up. In 1999, we found a South Korean manufacturer, and I sent my designs there, they copied them and sent us back some prototypes. The finishes were amazing, and it's hard to do a good finish. They come back to me and I customize, fine-tune them.
Q: The biz model?
A: Some sales are in-store and on our website, but mainly we wholesale to brick-and-mortar retailers in the U.S. like Chicago Music Exchange, Prymaxe Vintage, Rickorama Music.
Q: What's special about a DiPinto guitar?
A: If you're onstage playing a DiPinto, people will be curious. They're flamboyant. We've taken a retro look from the '60s and made it stage-worthy. Another unique thing is the four pickups on the Galaxie 4. Most guitars have three, and the extra pickup increases sonic choices.
Q: What are your most popular sellers?
A: The Galaxie 2s and Galaxie 4 Deluxe are our flagship brands. The Galaxie 4 Deluxe Sonic Blue is $1,050 and our most expensive guitar that's not handmade. The Galaxie 2s are in the $850 range. The Los Straitjackets [Galaxie 4] is probably our most popular, and we sell on average 100 per year. It's named after a surf-rock band [based in Los Angeles], and when they tour we sell a lot of them. They cost $777.
Q: What other artists wield your axes?
A: Rick Nielsen, of Cheap Trick; Jack White, David Bowie, Earl Slick, Kurt Vile and Jimmy Vivino. Conan O'Brien also owns some of my guitars.
Q: Biggest challenge?
A: Surviving the recession. A lot of guitar shops in the city went out of business.
Q: How big a biz?
A: Two part-time employees and three contractors, including a publicist and a sales rep. We sell 300 guitars a year.
Q: What's next?
A: We think the local business is going to pick up because Fishtown is booming and we have the biggest guitar store in the city.