Gallagher Guitar Co. is scheduled to make its move to Murfreesboro official with a Grand Opening concert on Saturday, Feb. 1.
The formerly family-owned business was passed down through three generations of fathers and sons before it was announced that the original Bedford County location would close its doors for the last time in May of 2019.
“I visited the Gallagher shop when I was younger, and I’ve always had this connection to Gallagher because it was so close to where I grew up,” said David Mathis, 54, the new owner and a Murfreesboro-based psychologist.
Mathis said he hopes the relocation of the shop to Rutherford County will bring recognition back to the Gallagher brand of acoustic guitars that he became familiar with in his early teenage years.
“The man who influenced me the most played a Gallagher guitar, which I knew was a really good guitar, but I didn't really appreciate it at 14,” Mathis said.
When Mathis heard that Gallagher was stopping production after 54 years, he reached out to the family directly. He acknowledged the family’s protectiveness of the company. In the end, however, father and son Don and Stephen Gallagher were happy to see the business carry on, according to Mathis.
Aside from calling Murfreesboro home, for Mathis the choice to move the business closer to Nashville’s music scene made the most sense for the company to reintroduce the brand to the public.
“It got to where it was hard to even find used Gallaghers or to be able to order one because they were building so few, and they were behind. And so, the biggest challenge has been getting the name recognition built up again,” Mathis explained.
A shop tour
The “organized chaos” of setting up shop in a rustic brick and mortar building just off the city’s downtown square started last November. Two months later, the shop’s concrete floor has been transformed into a mini concert venue with rows of black bistro tables.
On the far left wall is a newly installed plywood stage where local musicians can perform live before an audience. The space is appropriately labelled with silver, galvanized letters that spell out “Gallagher Unplugged.” Gallagher guitar owners have the benefit of coming in to play at any time as long as the performance schedule isn’t booked.
Mathis says he took inspiration from Nashville’s Bluebird Café in shaping the shop’s atmosphere.
“It’s not about coming and getting food. It’s about coming and listening to music. We’ll see how it goes, but we’re hopeful that we’ll be recognized as a place that people can count on having good music they’re going to listen to,” Mathis said.
A set of stairs at the back of the store leads to the workshop where a small team of skilled luthiers assemble each guitar. Guitars in all stages of production rest on work benches and inside molds surrounded by bottles of Titebond wood glue. Mathis also purchased the Gallagher machines and guitar molds.
“You can put pieces of wood together in a formula like they do in a factory, but this allows us to have time to fine tune a guitar and make sure the sound was what we wanted it to be. All the joints, everything. It’s just at a much higher level,” Mathis said.
Whether it’s Nicaraguan cocobolo or a crabapple wood from a customer’s own yard , each wood produces a different sound.
“The rosewood has a nice, bassy sound,” said Mathis, gesturing to a disassembled guitar face, “whereas the mahogany — even though it’s got a good bass to it — is a brighter guitar. Just a brighter sound.”
Nearly every element of the guitar is customizable with the exception of Gallagher’s signature French curve headstock.
The first guitar that will come out of the new Gallagher location will be a Doc Watson 3800, named after the Grammy-award winning country and bluegrass guitarist. Although the shop offers several shapes and wood combinations for buyers to choose from, the Doc Watson takes the lead as the store’s most popular style, according to Mathis, who is partial to the G-50 model.
“It’s called a G-50 because J.W. was 50 years old when he started his guitar business,” Mathis said.
Unlike some of the more well-known guitar brands, Gallagher’s is what Mathis calls a “boutique guitar” brand that doesn’t mass-produce. Each year, it makes anywhere from 100-200 guitars.
“We’re never going to be big. We’re never going to be a factory. We’re only going to be able to do so many a year, and so it’s all made in America in a small shop, customized. So that sets us apart from a lot of guitar makers,” Mathis said.
GALLAGHER GUITAR CO.
Location: 118 N. Walnut St., Murfreesboro
Owner: David Mathis
Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, closed
Contact: For information and performance schedules (Grand Opening and concert is Saturday, Feb. 1 at 8 p.m.) go to www.gallagherguitar.com or call (615) 624-4196.