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The Carthage Press
  • Father, son team up for guitar business

  • Mark Jenny and his son, Matt, are partners in MJT Custom Aged Guitar Finishes.
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  • Mark Jenny and his son, Matt, are partners in MJT Custom Aged Guitar Finishes.
    Their building at South River remains low-key, but there's an international business going on inside.
    The five-year-old business produces about 300 guitars a month and are sold all over the world. Half of their business is custom-made orders, and the other half is for Internet-based vendors and dealers. The name of the game for Mark is always “vintage.”
    “We recreate vintage vendor guitars; what are known as 'relics,'” Mark said. “Everything you see me involved in has to do with vintage, restored or refinished.”
    How They Do It
    In the beginning of the process, the business receives a shipment of already-carved wooden guitar bodies. Guitar bodies are then sprayed with color.
    Employee Nate Hohenfeldt was trained by Mark in this area of expertise, and has improved his skills in his five years of experience with MJT.
    “Everyone here is artistic,” Mark said. “They like it – everyone enjoys the process and don't mind the work it takes to get the end product.”
    After receiving color, the guitars are transferred to the wet-sanding area. From here, some are given a binding, which was a popular beautification in the 1950s.
    From there, guitars are then given their “age.” Mark's daughter, Michele, 31, picked up this art soon after she joined the business four years ago.
    “She's a natural,” Mark said. “She came on with us to do shipping, and picked it up one day to help me out. Now she's our top ager.”
    Based on what the customer wants, guitars are given a look that appears to be experience. A lacquer is used on the guitar, and then put into a freezer to allow the lacquer to crack.
    “This look comes from when musicians traveling, say, up north, keep their guitars in the back of the trunk while they eat somewhere or stay in a motel,” Mark said. “The guitar's lacquer forms these cracks, and we recreate that. Some people order their guitar with a lot of age, or some just want a little.”
    Finished guitars are then sent to the packaging area in the business side – which is Matt's department.
    “We've shipped to places I didn't even know existed,” said Matt, 34, “places you don't learn about in school; places you didn't know liked guitar music … Music is the most worldwide common thing people have.”
     
    How It Began
    Mark had a construction business in California; he sold it and moved here to pursue his hobby as his new career in 2007.
    Page 2 of 2 - “This all started in my garage,” Mark said.
    Mark was operating in a large garage on Garrison Avenue when his son joined the expedition. It started to grow fast – especially when Matt brought Nate onboard.
    They moved to a place on Gum Road that had 1,000 square feet. They quickly outgrew that location, and moved into the building on South River, which has 15,000 square feet, two years ago.
    “We're only using 7,000 for business here, so there's room to grow,” Mark said. “This kind of work takes years of practicing the technique. I spent 10-12 years in the trenches of this, and it takes lots of practice, lots of trial and error. These guys have taken it to the next level, and now their work is much better than mine. Based off of customer comments, we're considered one of the best in the world. We're quite proud of what we have here, but at the same time we don't want to get too puffed up about it – We want to keep our humility so we can continue to grow.”
    MJT now operates with 11 employees, including Mark's wife, Wendy, who joined the business six months ago and has become a vital to the operation.
    Where It Can Go
    Easily half of the Jenny's business is international sales. About 15-25 boxes are going out everyday to places all around the world. Their guitars have been purchased for such artists as: Guns and Roses, Brooks and Dunn, and Anthrax.
    And on a local level, one of the Jenny's guitars will be the featured instrument on an episode of Kelly's Kountry Junction in October. Jimmy Henley, a musician from Hee Haw, will be playing a MJT guitar, as the show is filmed in Joplin.
    “It's been great,” Matt said. “For boys who are close to their parents, this is like a dream come true – especially to be in such a cool thing as guitars.”
    Mark said the business is where it is today because of his son.
    “Besides God's blessing, this place is possible because of Matt's hard work,” Mark said. “He took a product that I had and turned it into a business.”
    There is a hope that the business will remain a family-owned and operated place for another generation. Matt's son, Landon, is three.
     

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