Gibson moving Memphis guitar production to Nashville

Friday, November 30, 2018, Vol. 42, No. 48
By Tom Bailey, The Daily Memphian

Gibson Brands Inc. will stop making guitars in Memphis by April and move the operation to its Nashville headquarters.

Company officials 13 months ago announced Gibson was marketing for sale its Downtown facility and moving to a new, state-of-the-art facility elsewhere in Memphis.

But Gibson has confirmed Friday for the Daily Memphian that it is leaving town.

“After thorough evaluation and amid the previously disclosed April 2019 expiration of our Memphis lease, we have determined that integrating the company’s Memphis operations with our Gibson USA and Gibson Custom facilities in Nashville, where Gibson is headquartered, is the right next step for our business,’’ Gibson Brands officials said in a statement.

“This integration will provide the company with an opportunity to drive scale, streamline our production, and create much needed synergy,’’ the statement continued.

About 65 people work at the facility.

“With this planned integration, a number of Memphis-based employees will be offered the opportunity to relocate to Nashville and our goal over the next several months is to support our employees and allow our business to have the appropriate time to manage this transition accordingly.’’

The Gibson Beale Street Showcase and Guitar Factory – located on nearly 6 acres at 145 Lt. George W. Lee Ave., across South B.B. King Boulevard from FedExForum – has operated for 18 years in 127,620 square feet.

In October 2017, Gibson Brands confirmed it was putting its Downtown Memphis factory on the market.

Investment firms Somera Road Inc. of New York and Tricera Capital of Miami bought the property last year for $14.4 million, and by spring announced a partnership with Billy and Benjamin Orgel’s Orgel Family LP to redevelop it.

Somera Road leased back the facility to Gibson through next April. Somera also owns an 350-space parking lot just south of the plant.

The Memphis plant is one of Gibson's three factories. It makes semi-hollow electric guitars, including the Gibson ES line, and custom instruments.

Gibson makes solid electric guitars in Nashville, and acoustic guitars in Bozeman, Montana.

Earlier this year, Gibson filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Friday morning, the factory hummed with work.

Just inside the back of the building, new guitars were boxed and stacked and waiting to be shipped out. Wood pieces were stacked near the guard desk, waiting for assembly into instruments.

Live music filled the space as someone occasionally strummed soft riffs on electric guitars to test them.

In the front of the building, gleaming and colorful electric Gibson guitars remained on display in the company store.

Occasionally, tourists walked up to the front door trying to enter the shop. But Gibson officials confirmed Friday that the shop is permanently closed.