Taylor made

Three decades of guitar genius near San Diego
Ben Marks

It wasn't an auspicious beginning. Thirty years ago, a 19-year-old guy named Bob Taylor decided to open a guitar shop in the San Diego County town of Lemon Grove. The night before, it had rained like hell.

Accordingly, job one on day one for Taylor and partners Kurt Listug (now the company's CEO) and Steve Schemmer (he sold his interest in 1983) was to mop up the floor of their new workshop with sawdust. "It was fun," Taylor recalls in an official company history on the Taylor Guitars website. "What did we know? We were just kids."

These days the only thing Taylor Guitars is mopping up is the competition. Last year the company built almost 70,000 acoustic guitars, generating sales in excess of $50 million. Meanwhile, the roster of musicians who play Taylors, without endorsement, ranges from one of Bob Taylor's musical heroes, John Fogerty, to San Diego's biggest superstar, Jewel. And then there's Neil Young, who, for Taylor, is in a class by himself. "He's still playing the 12-strings he bought 25 years ago. I have just one picture on my office wall, and that's of Neil. I'm a big fan."

Indeed, Taylor's musical influences and craftsman roots are no doubt key to his current success. "Our goal wasn't to have a business," Taylor continues from his company's 140,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in El Cajon. "We just wanted to make guitars." Thirty years later, that, at least, has not changed. "I'm building a house," Taylor says. "My goal is to also build a shop, and I'll probably be out there building guitars again."

On tour

Taylor Guitars offers free tours at 1 p.m. Mon–Fri (1980 Gillespie Way, El Cajon; www.taylorguitars.com or 619/258-1207).