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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

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Alvarado’s gig is making custom guitars from scratch

For years, Art Alvarado has been perfecting the craft of making custom electric guitars from scratch. After years of fine-tuning his skills, he’s finally opened a store of his own, where he can not only sell his guitars, but also create them.

“The store is more my workshop, that happens to have a storefront to display my (completed) guitars,” he said.

Alvarado Hand Made Custom Guitars opened on 312 Main Street in East Toledo about seven months ago. It is just down the street from Frankie’s Bar.

728alverado1a 728alverado2b
728alveradoguitar Top left:Alvarado with the head of one of his signature
guitars.
Top right: Art Alvarado with a piece of curly maple that
he will fashion into a guitar.
Left: A guitar that he hand-carved. 
(Press photos by Ken Grosjean)

Alvarado’s relationship with guitars didn’t begin with playing the instrument. His first experience came from buying guitars for his son.

“I knew that (my kids) needed a positive influence in their lives. I always thought that was music was it,” said Alvarado.

Alvarado believes that learning an instrument is so much more beneficial to kids than just having the ability to play music.

“If you learn an instrument, you set goals for yourself that are obtainable,” he said. “With a guitar, you can express your feelings. You don’t need to keep them bottled up.”

Before starting to build guitars, Alvarado had no carpentry or building experience at all. But one fateful day in a guitar store, where he was looking for equipment for his son, his interest was sparked.

“I walked into a guitar store, and you know how people say that they heard a voice? It was pretty much like that,” he said. “I’d never even thought about making guitars, but I heard something within me say ‘What are you doing here?’ That’s all it had to say.”

It took Alvarado time to figure out what materials he needed and how to go about constructing handmade instruments, but after that day, he never doubted that making guitars was his calling.

“From the time I left that store, I knew that this is what I was meant to do,” he said.

For Alvarado, it is rewarding work, but it’s also a tough business, especially when he feels the pressure from others who think he should make guitars that look more like brand name guitars.

“People want to play (instruments) that look like the ones their heroes play,” he said, “but that’s not why I got into making guitars.”

Anyone who comes into Alvarado’s shop will see that the designs aren’t like anything produced in a factory. To make them even more special, Alvarado never makes the same guitar twice.

“Every one of my guitars is a one-off,” he said. “They’re not coming off of some computer driven program, they come from my hands. They’re hand built, hand cut, hand carved, hand polished.”

Even though Alvarado makes each guitar different from any other instrument in existence, including a unique name for each- including “FalconKing,” “Lemondrop,” and “Addison”- he keeps his prices low, so that the chance to own a handmade guitar isn’t just open to those with a lot of money to spend.

“My prices are low for what I do,” Alvarado said. “Even if they’re the same price as an off-the-rack guitar, mine are one-of-a-kind.”

Still, the payoff for Alvarado isn’t in the money, but the creativity he puts into each unique instrument.

“(Building guitars) is my expression,” Alvarado said. “It’s my contribution to music.”

For more information on Art Alvarado’s custom guitars, call 419-309-0076 or visit www.alvaradoguitars.com. The store is open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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