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Paul Reed Smith

BY CSA STAFF

To say that Paul Reed Smith is passionate about guitars would be an understatement. Smith, a native of Bowie, Md., began making guitars in the attic of his childhood home, while attending St. Mary’s College of Maryland as a math major. He built his first one as a challenge to a music professor for some credits. He ended up earning an “A.”

“I always knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life—I just had to figure out a way to do it,” Smith, 51, said.

He left college after his sophomore year to chase his dreams of starting his own guitar business.

“It was obvious that I couldn’t make a living by selling one guitar at a time,” Smith said. “I had to go to market with more guitars, change my lifestyle or be very poor.”

Refusing to settle, Smith decided to hang outside local concert venues to make friends with roadies. He started snagging backstage passes and peddling his guitars to rock stars. After getting orders for more than 50 guitars, he built two prototypes. In 1984, he popped them in the back seat of his truck and called on guitar dealers along the East Coast.

He was able to launch his company a year later, after he secured enough orders to fund his venture.

In 1986, Smith contacted Gibson Guitar Corp. pioneer and former company president Ted McCarty, who was known for creating the famous Flying V guitar, and looked to him as a mentor.

“Ted was an extremely influential person in my career,” Smith said. “My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to find a teacher and glue yourself to them. You can learn so much from someone who has gone through it all before.”

Founder, managing general partner Paul Reed Smith Guitars (PRS Guitars) Stevensville, Md.Annual sales: $30 million-plusType of business: Manufacturer and online marketer of guitarsAreas of operation: Worldwide.

His collaboration with McCarty eventually gave rise to various innovative modifications, some of which have become standard to PRS guitar models. The Private Stock collection, PRS’ most high-end line of guitars, are made utilizing a vast range of exotic materials including various stones, elaborately figured tone woods and intricate shells for inlays.

Now, the company makes more than 15,000 guitars each year. Although consumers can’t purchase guitars online, the site does sell guitar accessories. Looking forward, Smith hopes to double the company size within the next three to five years.

“I really believe in the power of following your dreams, even through the hardest of times,” Smith said. He said he is inspired by those who never give up—from civil-rights pioneer Abraham Lincoln to Olympic Gold gymnast Kerri Strug, who clinched the world title in 1996 while competing on a broken ankle.

Although he no longer has time to work on guitars every day, his passion to build them never wavers. In his free time, Smith said he loves to fish and spend time his wife, three children and two stepchildren.

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CompUSA may get a new look

BY CSA STAFF

ADDISON, Tx. After opening a new format store last month, CompUSA may be changing the format of its other stores, depending on customer demand and product interest.

According to reports, the elements found in the prototype store, located in Texas, will be incorporated into other CompUSA locations across the United States.

The nearly 7,700 square-ft. relocation site includes an Apple shop featuring Mac computers, iPods and Apple accessories, and a full-length LCD TV wall.

Additional expansions include extended gaming, which includes an entire wall devoted to the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 gaming platforms, plus a PC gaming setup to test equipment and play new titles.

While businesses can get their share of support with a specialized services section, all consumers can visit the store’s redesigned IT support area.

“This new store aligns CompUSA’s vision to better serve its three core customers, the technology enthusiast, educated professional and small and medium businesses,” said Gabriela Villalobos, the retailer’s sales and operations evp.

CompUSA announced in April that it would narrow its focus to three core customer groups rather than try to serve a mass audience.

The move was part of a comprehensive restructuring, initiated last February, that included an overhaul of senior management and the closure of half its store base as the privately held chain looked to improve sales and profitability.

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Walgreens withdraws from CVS provider plans

BY CSA STAFF

DEERFIELD, Ill. After many months of talks over low and below-market payment rates by CVS Caremark for four prescription plans, Walgreens has withdrawn as a pharmacy provider from the plans.

Patients affected include members of prescription benefit plans managed by CVS Caremark for ArcelorMittal, Johnson Controls, Progressive Casualty Insurance and Wisconsin Education Association Trust.

Most of the affected members live in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Trent Taylor, president of Walgreens Health Services, the managed care division of Walgreens, released the following statement:

“This is not where we wanted negotiations to lead,” he said. “We’re sorry that our pharmacy patients and CVS Caremark’s clients are caught in the middle, and we’ll do all we can to ensure a smooth transition for our patients to another pharmacy. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to work on resolving this issue with CVS Caremark.

“Leaving a benefits plan is an extraordinary step for us, but it demonstrates how extraordinarily low our payments were from CVS Caremark. We can’t continue accepting reimbursement rates that are drastically below market, while offering patients needed special services such as 24-hour pharmacy access and drive-thru pharmacies.”

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