The only thing that survived the fire was...
A few weeks back we had an older gentleman walk in by the name of Earl. Out of a plastic bag he pulled an old, charred, and nearly destroyed guitar strap. His house had tragically burned to the ground along with everything he owned - old photos, priceless and sentimental belongings of his deceased wife, his guitar collection, and nearly everything of real or personal value. The firefighters were able to retrieve a few things out of the home after the blaze was under control - one of which was his main guitar, a Les Paul Custom. The guitar was completely ruined by the flames. Yet, still attached to the guitar was his favorite guitar strap given to him in 1993 by his wife.
In talking with him he couldn't express how much that guitar strap meant to him. It was something he loved owning, received tons of compliments at his shows, and most importantly, a gift from a loved one he missed dearly. The destruction of the fire to the "things" in his life was something he was able to get past - but this guitar strap was a "thing" that became much more than a "thing" because of who gave it to him and all the many years that it had been associated with her and their memories.
So, he set out to find another one just like it. But there was one big problem. He didn't know who made it, where it was purchased, or anything about how to find another one like it. However, there was still a tag on the strap that got him going in the right direction. It was our old 'LM' logo with the awl and thread. Had the fire not pardoned that 1" little nylon tag, his searched would have most likely ended there. And with his daughter's help and the miracle of the internet, they were able to track us down. And low and behold, our factory is just up the road from his home.
The question then became, "Can we recreate this guitar strap for him?". The strap as you can see in the pictures is made from a 3" wide woven southwestern fabric - a model and fabric that has been discontinued for nearly two decades. Making more of that would be impossible and finding someone who sells it - even more improbable. So, we went up to our third floor warehouse to see if we could find some deadstock hidden among the piles and stacks. If you aren't familiar with our fabled third floor --- picture walking up into the most amazing mid-century attic you've ever been in that smells like leather. It is 50+ years of everything that came into our doors, never found a proper home, and never left. We scoured the 7,500 ft. of space from floor to ceiling. And then finally, on the top of a tall, tall shelf pressed up against the wall - all but out of sight - there it was. A few rolls of the material that was used for his strap.
It was a pretty spectacular find and we couldn't wait to get to work on making his straps. So, we asked him to give us a few days, come back, and we would have something for him. While he was away, one of our long-time employees, Karen, made him two new straps. And it couldn't have been written any differently if it were fiction. Because, she was the very person who sewed all of the straps that Earl had nearly lost in the fire. Some 20+ years later, there she was, sewing the same strap yet a new strap for Earl.
Earl walked back into our shop today and we had the absolute pleasure and joy of giving him two new straps to honor the memory of the strap that had meant so much to him. We're not sure who was smiling more, him or us.
It's a really incredible feeling when you're life's work gets entwined with something so central to another person's life. As a craftsman you work hard to make something of quality that another person can be proud to own. But, you just know how, when, or if it will ever become more than just a "thing" to someone. And to sit down with Earl, hear his story and see the way he clutched that charred and threadbare strap in his hands with pride was profoundly inspirational. We've long thought that the most important people that wear are straps aren't "celebrities" or "famous musicians". The person we really enjoy seeing wearing our straps is the teenager at his first "real gig", the band that nobody knows but is busting their butts in crappy bars and going broke, the kid who mowed lawns all summer to get a Mexi Strat, and good folks like Earl. Those are the people we are most proud to see wearing our guitar straps. Those are the stories we are most proud to be a part of. Those are the people that deserve the best work we can do.
Thanks Earl. Stop by anytime.
- LM Products
Earl's Fire Strap
Earl's New Straps