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Gael McKeon closed shop in Berkeley!?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Maple, May 17, 2018.


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  1. Maple

    Maple Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2016
    San Francisco Bay Area
    Just found out that @gaelmckeon is or has closed shop!
    About

    I'm really bummed. He did the repairs on my current bass and I was just thinking of heading back to his shop for some more adjustments. His site says he's closed shop.
     
  2. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    Nathaniel Rich, his loyal and talented assistant for 5 years, has a new shop space and is continuing to do fine work with an even-tempered, customer service oriented professional attitude.
    (510) 367-3119
    richbasslutherie@gmail.com
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2018
    JeffKissell, misterbadger and Maple like this.
  3. What’s he doing with his stock? He had some cool stuff.
     
  4. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    The surprise is not that he is closing shop. The real surprise is that he was able to survive there for 7 years.

    Most luthiers make a very modest wage and live fairly simple lifestyles to pursue their craft. As much as I miss the 20 years I lived in the west coast, the idea of moving back there on a luthiers wage is impossible. No matter how much "work" may exist in the bay area, if the cost of housing is four times what it costs me, I still cannot raise my $350 new bridge price to $1400 to compensate. How many luthiers do you know in Aspen or Vail?
     
  5. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    For several decades Pat McCarthy has successfully found balance in his doublebass luthier life and playing lots of symphony dates. Pat is known around the world for his restoration work, arco setups, and C extensions. He lives and works just two towns north of Berkeley in El Cerrito. Pat is a steady and fastidious worker. Pat can be reached at (510) 524-6636. His email is pmluthier@sbcglobal.net
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2018
    iamthebassplayr likes this.
  6. turf3

    turf3

    Sep 26, 2011
    This kind of thing is why I predict that these incredibly high priced metropoli will eventually collapse under the inability for middle and working class people to live there. All these people who make enough money to live in places like the Bay Area rely - nay, depend - on people who earn a lot less money. When those people can't afford to live or do business where their customers are (or near enough to be feasible), the whole edifice collapses.
     
  7. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I had a beautiful bridge of his for years, when I got a new neck it had to replaced. He is legend!
     
    misterbadger and iamthebassplayr like this.
  8. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    Every story is personal and everyone's complex set of needs and goals is a reflection of who they have been, are now, and want to be in the future. It is rare that a person drawn to an essentially solitary pursuit is capable or willing to be a juggling ringmaster with a busy repair shop, rental business, keeping two employees reliably busy, and engaging in various kinds of retail bass selling in a mid-sized shop. It proved to be the case here, as a person who had only been in an employee role in existing shop businesses could hang up his work hat at the end of the work day and go off to a diverse personal life in the evening after an 8 hour day. A more sustainable path might have been to remain a one man shop and not to try to have the retail instrument concerns interrupt his daily work schedule. The extremely demanding time and energy of running a reasonably complex multifunction shop with 2 employees to feed obviously got to be less and less fun. The direction that his future bass luthier life will take is outlined in Jason Heath's podcast interview that has also been posted to YouTube. It should be a more balanced life for him working with a builder in France.

    It is rare enough to find work balance in a combined retail and working shop business with 2 part time employees. Sacramento's Jeff Sahs seems to thrive working 6 days per week this way. Jeff loves talking with people and hearing their stories as he works on a bass and produces magical setups that are easy to play and sound great. Jeff is the leading doublebass resource in the Sacramento Valley and has been for nearly 40 years. He can be reached at (916) 739-1962, the shop being located just south of William Land Park. Jeff thrives on human voice contact, so texting or email are pretty useless to him.
     
  9. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    Nathaniel Rich's new functioning shop space is located just a few miles north of the old Berkeley String Bass Studio space, with infinitely easier parking space. It is just off the I-80 freeway Central Avenue exit in El Cerrito. I have had some good work done by Nathaniel already. I think that he is off to an excellent start as one of the few go-to doublebass luthiers in the SF Bay Area.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2018
    Maple likes this.
  10. I know Jeff Sahs. He worked on my basses when we were living n the Sacramento/Auburn area. Did great set ups. He helped me build a temporary case and pack up a double bass that was sent to Kauai back in 2001. He's a good man and a great luthier.
     
  11. wathaet

    wathaet

    May 27, 2007
    Anyone know where in France he will be based?
     
  12. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    For those in the southern California area between Los Angeles and San Diego, Jason Brown is a very fine doublebass luthier resource. Since leaving as head luthier at Lemur Music, he is located in Laguna Beach at The Guitar Shoppe, 1027-B North Coast Hwy. Jason can be reached at (949) 870-5075.
     
  13. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    Up in the Seattle, WA area, the top choice for professional level doublebass luthier appears to be Sarah Balmforth for both regular maintenance and custom work. I have seen examples of her work and have gotten referrals from a few professional players in the area. Sarah may be reached by phoning Alan Balmforth at the Lake Forest Park shop during the week at (206) 363-7349.
     
    Chris Symer likes this.
  14. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    In San Leandro, a couple of cities south of Berkeley, Ben Williams does fine work with setups and repairs, such as broken necks. He can be reached at (818) 489-8986 or rblinfo@gmail.com.
     
  15. Chris Symer

    Chris Symer

    Dec 13, 2009
    Seattle,Wa.
    Sarah has been my luthier of choice since relocating here in 2002. She does wonderful work.
     
  16. gaelmckeon

    gaelmckeon

    Feb 7, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    Bass luthier
    Hi guys. Steve Swan mentions quite a bit in an above statement. To clarify; it was possible for me to stay, and I chose to leave. Two good options, I chose one. Otherwise, there's a whole lot of conjecture going on in his assessments. For anybody who'd like to know why I left, from me and not from the wide-open interweb, here's the link to the interview about it:
    Gael McKeon Archives - Contrabass Conversations
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018 at 7:57 AM
  17. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    Taylor Marsh is an excellent journeyman level luthier who has spent 5 years at Jeff Sahs' side learning the craft. I have to say, of anyone who makes bridges for my shop, hers are the best fit and the most beautiful. Taylor graduated from Sacramento State with a degree in bass performance and is the principal bassist with the Camellia Symphony Orchestra. She is a valuable asset to the Sacramento Valley doublebass community with her patient and dedicated craftsmanship and solid, steady personality. Jeff Sahs Violins' shop number is (916) 739-1962.
     
    Treyzer likes this.
  18. gaelmckeon

    gaelmckeon

    Feb 7, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    Bass luthier
    I'll be near Toulouse, and will have my own shop where I will continue to repair, set-up, restore and sell basses.

    I will also be working in the service of a very talented builder, on a wonderful set of bass building projects.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018
  19. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    Pat McCarthy is currently recognized as the most accomplished maker of C extensions in the San Francisco Bay Area. He may be reached at pmluthier@sbcglobal.net or by phone at (510) 524-6636.
     

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  20. gaelmckeon

    gaelmckeon

    Feb 7, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    Bass luthier
    Also, Lemur music will provide an excellent resource for all things bass in the Bay, as soon as they have the shop up and running (in my old space). Consignments and sales will run the gamut, from student to high-end quality instruments. Toni and Coleman Buffa have a vast experience in the bass retail business, and will surely provide a valuable service and alternative for people in the market for an instrument.
     
    tonequixote and Treyzer like this.

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