By Ryan Waldrep, Assistant Director for Entrepreneur and Small Business Development
Small Business Spotlight | Statesboro, Bulloch County | Region 12
Chris Mitchell started teaching lessons and offering a small retail line of musical instruments and accessories in Statesboro in the late 1990s and rapidly outgrew a small space on the outskirts of Downtown.
Utilizing a Downtown Development Revolving Loan to acquire and renovate a building on Main Street, Pladd Dot was able to move into a much larger building, with better visibility. Chris now has 7,400 square feet of space that includes a 2,400 retail space on the ground floor, seven teaching rooms and office space on the second and loft space on the third floor, which would all be instrumental in the growth of the company.
While discussing their origins and journey to where they are today, Chris smiled.
“We’re trying to refine what ‘retail’ means.” – Chris Mitchell, Founder & Owner, Pladd Dot Music
Well, I think they’ve hit a chord. The music store provides an atmosphere that encourages people to come in, sit down and play with an instrument. Take a moment and plug in a guitar, check-out the latest in orchestra and band instruments or peruse through the latest in music lesson books in one of the leather chairs that beckon to customers as they walk in the door.
But Pladd Dot is more than just a neighborhood music store. More than 160 students of all ages take part in private lessons and Pladd Dot’s School of Rock and Roll. (Jack Black, eat your heart out!) Students audition for spots in the School of Rock and Roll and play gigs throughout the community and region.
One day, Chris realized he had no American-made guitars on display and began investigating how to build his own. Chris Mitchell Guitars launched soon after, and as the demand for his custom-made guitars grew, Chris relocated his manufacturing operations to an industrial building near the Statesboro Airport.
But he wasn’t done. Through a chance meeting with a local resident to discuss the repair of an older guitar amp, a discussion of electronics led to the thought of making amplifiers as well. Chris launched Devilcat Amplifiers with Twin City Precision, in nearby Emanuel County, producing all of the cabinets for them.
Keeping up with the manufacturing process and the continued growth of Pladd Dot’s repair and service arm provides challenges. “I knew nothing about manufacturing before we started. It is all about having the right people,” stated Chris. “You have to have a system in place. But you can make it work.”
Both Chris Mitchell Guitars and Devilcat produce custom guitars and amps in small runs and customize the product for the customer. Whether it is a Jimmy, Francine, Missy, Mr. Terry or Mean Jean Devil cat, or an Ashlee or Mark guitar, each holds a hidden secret. They are all named after someone that is important to Chris and his family.
Imagine the “ooohs” and “aahs” when out of the case comes a custom Ashlee (named for Chris’ wife) made from gorgeous heart pine in the “Statesboro Blue” color. Or a completely custom guitar with different types of wood inlaid into the body to give an awesome surf vibe. If you can dream it, Chris Mitchell Guitars can make it happen.
Future projects keep Chris busy. He is currently working on a new software package that can help music stores, just like his, manage lessons and curriculum, scheduling lesson rooms, organizing recitals and provide for transparency and communication with parents. He is also working on a new online retail arm called Pladd Dot Toys, where the proceeds will be used to assist local holiday toy drives.
Got a Small Business question? Start the conversation! Contact Ryan Waldrep, Assistant Director for Entrepreneur and Small Business Development, at (404) 877-8406 or [email protected].