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Cortez Crafts Small-Batch Guitars From Scratch

Curt Mangan's instruments land in the bands of Dolly Parton and Lady Antebellum


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CURT MANGAN GUITAR STRINGS  |  Product: Other  |  Made in: Cortez

Curt Mangan worked for stalwart string-maker Ernie Ball for 17 years before returning to his native Colorado to launch a "boutique" manufacturer in 2004.

"Everything is just more expensive in California," he says of the move to Cortez after considering Durango; and Moab, Utah; and Prescott and Sedona in Arizona. 

"Cortez just seemed to make a little more sense at the time. It still does."

Mangan compares his hands-on, small-batch approach to manufacturing guitar strings with craft brewing. 

"We do a little play testing on everything," he says. "We developed our recipes from scratch."

How? 

"We just developed something we liked," he laughs.

Guitar players like it, too. 

"We have a lot of well-known pros who have endorsement deals with other companies who buy our products," he says. "Bryan Adams uses our products." 

So does Dolly Parton's band, Land Antebellum and Miranda Lambert.

Above all, the products needs to sound good. 

"Once they've purchased the product, at that point the product has to speak itself," Mangan says. 

While the product is traditional, the business model is relatively new. 

"The internet is our fastest growing channel," says Mangan, citing more than 50 percent growth in 2017. That's largely because it's difficult for a single brick-and-mortar store to carry the entire catalog. 

"We're making over 700 individual strings now and over 300 sets," Mangan says. "It's overwhelming.

With two key kinds of machines – winders and ball-enders – the business employs about 10 people.

"Being a small company, it's kind of a blessing and kind of a curse at the same time," Mangan says. 

But he wouldn't have it any other way.

"We'll never be a big company. We're looking to stay where we are and fine-tune it."

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Eric Peterson

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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