Merchant Stories: Bitterroot Guitars

We love to hear stories about our merchants’ ecommerce journeys, so we’re sharing them for you to enjoy as well. Read on to learn about how Bitterroot Guitars has found success with their online store (via John and Sheryl Hildreth, NAMM Members).

What inspired you to start your online store?

Initially out of boredom, frustration with a job, and long-term view of business for retirement. We started our initial store on Ebay 1998, then expanded to our own website in 2007 before moving to Volusion. We were looking for a unique niche that was underserved, and found the guitar parts business to be an interesting niche. As a guitar builder (hobby originally), I (John) was very interested in the parts needed to build guitars. As we have grown, I continue to build guitars and have completed just over 400. We use these builds to prove our parts and engineering on products. Most of our builds over the last 10 years have been donated to charities—many to the Alzheimer’s Group in Lake Geneva, WI.

Homepage of Bitterroot Guitars' ecommerce site

What is your favorite part of running an ecommerce business?

This business started from a hobby and continues to grow and shape itself. It is now full time for us. Most customers are very surprised when they find out we have old-fashioned service—yes, we answer our phones! My wife (Sheryl) has been very involved in the business since 2012 and has been very instrumental in growing a lot of the sales. Word-of-mouth still works in spite of online platforms.

Lineup of guitars hanging on a wall

What do you like most about Volusion’s ecommerce solution?

We like that it is easy to use. Volusion has been responsive in working with us on most problems—tech support is generally right there and very helpful, responding at all hours. We did a major refresh on the site two years ago through Grow With Studio, which has also helped a lot.

Guitar-building supplies sold by Bitterroot Guitars

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received about running your business?

Make it your own, own your problems, and excel at customer service—go beyond the norm and be better than the competition. The craziest thing we have discovered is that we answer our phones, but most of the competition does not. It is a simple solution that works great. You cannot imagine customers’ reactions to someone actually helping them on the phone.

Bitterroot Guitars guitar pick resting on a guitar

What does the future hold for your business?

We are continuing to expand products and solutions and are also looking to support a video training site for our product solutions. Currently, we are starting to attend local swap meets and builder events around the US.