At new shop, pickup maker combines old-time craftsmanship
with new opportunities
Based in the Seattle area since its founding in the early ’90s, Lollar Pickups started out as Jason Lollar’s one-man shop. Twenty years later, it was still operating from a residential property on tiny Maury Island in the Puget Sound—only by then, a staff of around 15 had squeezed in to the backyard facility. Somewhere along the way, Lollar’s name and influence had outgrown its operation. So in 2014, Lollar made the move to a new shop in Tacoma—a three-story brick structure with 8,000 square feet of work space and a view of Mount Rainier. With streamlined production areas, new tooling, and uniform workstations, Lollar’s new home is a leap forward in modernization and efficiency. But can the updated Lollar deliver the same personalized touch as the under-the-radar brand of two decades ago? Indeed it can, says co-owner Stephanie Lollar: In fact, that’s the only way they’d ever operate.
“When you buy one of our pickups, it’s still hand-built by one person—and their name goes on the bottom,” says Stephanie. “We feel very close to our customers, and would rather not make a sale than sell someone a product that’s wrong.”
A 1979 graduate of the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, Jason Lollar started his career building guitars, but quickly became better known for the pickups he would build himself. With a special knack for vintage tones, he could nail the attributes of a classic pickup or put his own twist on an existing concept, yielding signature designs known for their tonal excellence and—crucially—their consistency. A book he co-authored with Stephanie in the mid-’90s, Basic Pickup Winding And Complete Guide To Making Your Own Pickup Winder, raised Lollar’s profile among manufacturers and consumers alike. While both sides of the business continue today, Lollar credits much of its success to early OEM work that placed its pickups on covetable guitars heard far and wide. The company still does its “bread-and-butter” business in vintage-inspired designs, supplying guitar makers including Collings, Nash, K-Line, and National Resophonic, among many others.
“Our design process is very organic,” says Stephanie. “We test our prototypes through classic amps (Jason has an extensive collection), using a variety of players and styles. Almost everyone who works here is a musician, so we are able to judge our quality and sound from an end-user perspective. Nothing is put into production until we feel it has the ‘Lollar’ vibe: clarity, dynamics, and a musical ‘3D’ quality.”
While Lollar’s workmanship hasn’t changed, its capacity now has. At the new factory, the company is able to maintain and organize higher levels of inventory—making it possible to ship almost any product within days to dealers and distributors around the world: from Singapore to Norway, Australia, South America, and beyond. “We strive to make the best products on the market, and deliver the best customer service possible,” says Stephanie. “We are always working on new products, and ways to expand on the traditional tones without getting too far away from what we do best. Our strength has always been that we put tone first. We use the best parts and techniques available to create a product that will stand the test of time. Good tone never gets old.”
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