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Community Highlights: Meet Chris Kroenlein of K-Line Guitars

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Kroenlein.

Hi Chris, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
The journey started as a curious young guitar player. I grew up in a musical family as well as an auto body family. I would say my curiosity had me tearing apart guitars to see how they worked more so than playing. I refined my skills and painting abilities as a teenager working in my Dad’s shop which was located right next door to my house in Rock Hill.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself tearing apart guitars and swapping parts to find that perfect match. Once I had some disposable income, I began buying bodies and necks and building guitars for local friends. These players encouraged me to start doing this as a business. So in 2002, I launched K-Line Guitars out of my basement in Crestwood while using my father’s shop to do the paintwork.

Increased product demand later demanded I change my business model. In 2008, I found myself laid off from the pharmaceutical industry. This is when I officially started it as a full-time career. This included shifting to CNC operations that allowed me to build parts to spec.

The first few years were scary but I had already had many years building the brand.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The road has been rather smooth so far.

There were many lost parts watching them fly across the room as I learned the fine details of CNC operation. Also, there were years when I truly considered walking away as the realization my twins would be off to college in the near future.

I suppose I stayed so focused and flexible throughout history because I was basically a one-man shop and had very low overhead. I also have the continued support of my wife Tracy.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about K-Line Guitars?
K-Line Guitars crafts classic-style electric guitars from the ground up using hand-selected woods, top-notch hardware, and K-Line hand-wound pickups.

In addition to being great-playing instruments, K-Line Guitars are aesthetically accurate in their colors and classic style components, and the body and hardware can be lightly distressed to resemble a gently aged closet classic, moderately distressed to capture the vibe of a stage-worn relic or brand new non-aged.

Each guitar is a hand-crafted one-off creation. Customers work one on one at deciding on exactly what they need in a guitar. When they call, I am the one who answers the call and provides all customer service in a timely manner. Sending a large chunk of money to someone is a scary thing to do. I work extremely hard to make sure that what they want is what I can deliver.

I have been fortunate to also have the help of a good friend Brian Mathus to encourage and help me along the way with product design and brand creation. He is the guy behind the Route 66 theme as well as the logo and branding. I strive to make the process be a partnership with the customer.

The thing that I am most proud of is the fact that I could carry on as a small business owner following in the footsteps of my parents and their small business.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
Most of my learning has been on the job so to speak. I have always had a curious mind and utilized all resources to my advantage. The internet is full of great information. Trial and error have always been my way. You learn as much by failing as you do by succeeding.

Staying focussed on making each guitar or winding each pickup as I would want it has always been my way. I also never consider myself a master at anything. I am a forever a student. In my younger years, I also frequented Goez Instrument Repair and picked the minds of Skip Goes and Jon Ferber. They are two reputable luthiers in the area who I admire.

When it comes to business networking, my brand debuted on thegearpage.net. It is still considered my home. The Winter NAMM Show brought the brand to the international spotlight as well.

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