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Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012

From John Lennon to Fountains of Wayne

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 “If you come to a fork in the road, pick it up—you may need it later,” explains musician Glenn Boren, whose long and winding road brought him to the founding of Trophy Guitar Straps. Today, Trophy’s recreated vintage straps ship to six continents and are used by the world’s leading Beatles tribute acts, as well as Fountains of Wayne. They are designed and manufactured in Milwaukee.

How did you determine that recreating vintage guitar straps was a niche waiting to be filled?

In mid-2010, I had taken on a supplier of U.S.A.-made guitar straps. Many of the models were vintage reissues. The sales of these straps were brisk and international, so the market seemed ripe. When the supplier failed to deliver adequate product and meet Christmas delivery dates for my orders, it became clear there was room for another company in this market.

What was the spark that began Trophy Guitar Straps?

The true spark came when I received a number of inquiries from around the globe looking for—as it’s come to be known—the Lennon Rooftop Guitar Strap—the last strap worn by John Lennon for the Beatles’ rooftop concert, their final public appearance as a band, as chronicled in the film Let It Be. No one had produced that strap since 1969, so it became a point of research. I had inquired with my strap supplier, who ignored my emails. When I came across a video of Jody Porter from Fountains of Wayne using a replica, I tweeted him and met with him at their 2011 Summerfest show. But that prototype was not quite right, so I booked a flight to see the original strap at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, where it’s on view. I made sketches and found I had to recreate the imperfections of the original.

You learned from the ground up, from the weaving process to showcasing at NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) to running a worldwide business with products made in Milwaukee. What defines Trophy?

Respect for the past with an eye toward the future. We use motorcycle-grade leather, utilize new old-stock material, vestment fabric and anthropological and ethnic designs—even vegan straps. As with any new business endeavor during an uncertain economic time, it's riding out the daily waves of peaks and troughs and continuing to paddle for open water. Brand-building from the ground up is always a challenge for a new business. We've just completed our first year, and we find ourselves positioned in the market in a much better—and rather different—place than we anticipated in the beginning.

Knock on wood: A successful first year portends more success. How do you feel about the future?

I am getting older and don’t want to lift amplifiers. Straps are easy to ship!