February 20, 2011

Sounds Good

That’s the response music lovers have had to John Stass’ line of handcrafted wooden music room furniture.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

John Stass wanted a hobby to take his mind off his business.

click image to enlarge

John Stass has found a niche making music room furniture and selling it all over the world. Stass’ custom-designed pieces appeal to professionals who are passionate about a musical hobby and want something other than metal or plastic display racks or cabinets for their instruments and accoutrements.

click image to enlarge

John Stass, owner of Katahdin Studio Furniture, got into the business of making music room furniture when he was looking for some for himself and found little available. Fifteen years later, Stass is expanding his woodworking to include custom office and home furniture in his Zen Modern Collection. Stass and his staff work from a space in the Lewiston Hill Mill.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer


TO SEE MORE of John Stass' music furniture, go to www.katahdinstudio.com

Stass, a native of Lisbon Falls, was working as a customer service and team-building consultant for a variety of companies. He was very busy and felt he needed a hobby to help him relax. He tried taking up mandolin, but found his fingers a little too pudgy, so he took up guitar.

He loved his new hobby and worked hard at it, and in a few months, he had three different guitars.

"So I went to a music store to buy a rack or something to hang them on the wall," said Stass, 56. "But I soon found there was really no such thing as a good-looking wall mount for guitars. They were all metal or plastic. I was a relatively advanced handyman -- having remodeled three houses -- so I decided to build my own."

Fifteen years later, Stass has built a new career by building guitar racks. And sheet music stands. And instrument display cabinets.

His company, Katahdin Studio Furniture, sells music-related furniture to music lovers around the country. His clients have included celebrities such as Andy Griffith and Melissa Etheridge.

He has since expanded to building home office furniture and church furniture, but he built the business on music-related pieces.

When he was first deciding whether to start the business, he did some research to find out if any other companies were building high-quality, wooden, music room furniture. He found one, in Vermont. When he called them, he found they had just gone out of business.

"Some people would take that to mean there's no market for this product," said Stass. "But I'm an optimist, so I thought that left an opening for me."

Stass works from a space on the sixth floor of the Hill Mill, an old textile mill near downtown Lewiston. He's got one full-time craftsman working with him right now, James Roy, and until recently had another as well. He hopes to have a staff of four soon.

Stass' music room furniture ranges from a solo wall mount guitar rack that costs about $110 to the stately "Southwest Harbor" 30-drawer sheet music cabinet that costs more than $7,000. Some guitar display cabinets he makes sell for more than $8,000.

His wooden sheet music stands range from a couple hundred dollars to more than $2,000 for the "Precipice" music stand, which he calls "an edgy piece of furniture art." He also makes music tables, performance benches and instrument floor stands.

His customers are usually professional people who are passionate about their musical hobby. So they are a lot like Stass himself.

"Our typical customer is a professional person, and music is a major part of their private lives," said Stass. "They love the time they spend with their instrument, and they want to create a special place for it."

Etheridge apparently found Stass online and had someone from her office order 12 pieces. That's a very large order for a small shop like Stass', where pieces are made by hand on a workbench. So when he saw the size of the order, he thought it was a fraud and called the person who had placed it.

"She told me it was not a fraud, and that if I wanted, I could just make two of the pieces and send them out," said Stass. "When she got the first two pieces, she called me and said, 'I thought you might want to know the person you're making these for is Melissa Etheridge.' "

On Stass' website -- www.katahdinstudio.com -- you can see video of an interview with Etheridge that has her Stass guitar racks behind her.

(Continued on page 2)

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