Chris Fleming, CEO of Bourgeois Guitars, shows Edward Little High School students how they work and what they do on a recent field trip. The legendary guitar maker is entering the next phase of expansion, purchasing two lots on North Lisbon Road for a future guitar shop and sawmill. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file

Bourgeois Guitars has purchased two adjacent pieces of property at 43 and 51 North Lisbon Road in Lewiston as part of their long-term expansion plans.

Founder Dana Bourgeois has been talking about expanding for perhaps a decade, plans which started moving forward when Bourgeois partnered with Eastman Music in 2019.

Bourgeois Guitars founder Dana Bourgeois built his first guitar in his dorm room at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. He now has 34 employees who make guitars in the Hill Mill at 41 Chestnut St. in Lewiston.

The North Lisbon Road location is the former Thompson Equipment site, and the 7,300-square-foot building is being gutted and rebuilt to house a small sawmill. The adjacent property will eventually be home to a new custom designed guitar shop that will be built from the ground up.

Speaking with The Buzz on Wednesday, Bourgeois Guitars CEO Chris Fleming said the renovation underway should be completed in the fall, but that they don’t expect to break ground on the new guitar shop for one to two years and that it will be between 20,000 to 30,000 square feet.

As a comparison, the current guitar shop in the Hill Mill is 12,000 square feet and Fleming said they are bursting at the seams. The expansion will allow Bourgeois to increase production from its current 400 guitars a year to over 1,200.

It will also allow Bourgeois to bring its mandolin production — which is currently done by Pomona, California-based Eastman — to Lewiston.

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It will also mean the Touchstone line of guitars will also be able to migrate here. The Touchstone Series of guitars is something master luthier Bourgeois has been behind for years. It opens the door to quality guitars at a much more affordable price than the premier lines of hand-crafted guitars the company makes. The Touchstone Series has been available for about two years.

Fleming said that when they get to that point of increased production, they will likely have to double the current staff of 34 — 22 of whom are craftsmen in the shop.

Bourgeois’s family roots go way back in Maine, with his paternal side emigrating from New Brunswick in the 1920s, and his maternal side among the first settlers of Chebeague Island more than 300 years ago.

The expansion will further cement that Maine connection as Bourgeois and Fleming move to eventually source their red spruce directly from foresters and landowners here in Maine. Red spruce is a very special and important tonal wood for their high-end guitars.

Fleming said it’s a key to sustainability for the company and Maine’s foresters, as they plan to overpay for the prized Adirondack red spruce as an incentive to sustainable forestry. “The idea is low volume, high quality,” Fleming commented.

Red Spruce grows in abundance in Maine. Stradivarius uses red spruce for its world-renowned line of violins and string instruments. It will also allow Bourgeois to better control its inventory of specialty woods — a lesson learned the hard way during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This story was originally published as part of “The Buzz: Mancini’s Italian micro deli and sandwich shop to open in downtown Lewiston“. The Buzz offers quick hits about trending area business happenings. Have a Buzzable tip? Contact business writer Christopher Wheelock at 689-2817 or cwheelock@sunjournal.com

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