Spain crisis won't silence Manuel Rodriguez guitars

Thu Apr 7, 2011 9:04am EDT
 
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By Carlos Castellanos and Carlos Ruano

ESQUIVIAS, Spain (Reuters Life!) - In a small town in La Mancha, the region that inspired the epic Spanish novel "Don Quixote," a third generation guitar-maker is struggling to secure the future of his business.

Manuel Rodriguez III owns the century-old family business of the same name, heir to a tradition of guitar manufacturers which dates back to 1905 when his grandfather gave up fishing in Cadiz to dedicate his life to his musical passion.

More than 100 years later, Toledo-based Manuel Rodriguez and Son is still making handmade guitars and exports 90 percent of its production to 120 countries. Many of its finest guitars have found their way into the hands of famous musicians, world leaders, Nobel Prize-winners and royalty.

Over the years, the production process developed by Rodriguez's grandfather has undergone some changes, and while made to order and top range guitars are still totally hand-produced, the workshop now employs some mechanical processes to make production safer and more efficient.

"There used to be a lot of accidents. If you see anyone in the town missing fingers or even a hand you know he worked here," workshop manager Jose Luis Cebillo told Reuters.

Still, the workshop requires 60 percent manpower to make its guitars, and the global crisis of the last few years has forced the business to adapt to challenging market conditions.

Spain plunged into recession three years ago after a decade-long property and construction boom collapsed. Tight credit and falling demand for luxury goods forced the number of workshops down to six from 40 or 50 in just two decades.

Financing can be tricky in such conditions, even for an established company with a good balance sheet, Rodriguez said.   Continued...

 
<p>Jose Luis Cebillo, workshop manager of the Manuel Rodriguez and Sons' guitar factory, places a rosette to decorate a sound hole of a guitar in Esquivias, near Madrid, March 17, 2011. In a small town in La Mancha, the region that inspired the epic Spanish novel "Don Quixote", the third generation guitar-maker is struggling to secure the future of his business. Toledo-based Manuel Rodriguez and Son is still making handmade guitars and exports 90 percent of its production to 120 countries. Many of its finest guitars have found their way into the hands of famous musicians, world leaders, Nobel Prize-winners and royalty. REUTERS/Sergio Perez</p>