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Morgantown luthier Andrew White finds new way to make classic guitars

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Photos courtesy of Andrew White / Guitar accessories maker B. Y. Lim (left) licensed the designs of Morgantown luthier Andrew White to make, market and distribute the Goddess series of guitars in Paju City, South Korea. Photos courtesy of Andrew White / Guitar accessories maker B. Y. Lim (left) licensed the designs of Morgantown luthier Andrew White to make, market and distribute the Goddess series of guitars in Paju City, South Korea.
The Andrew White Guitar Factory in Paju City, South Korea, will produce 10,000 guitars a month at full capacity. The Andrew White Guitar Factory in Paju City, South Korea, will produce 10,000 guitars a month at full capacity.
Buses from the Andrew White Guitar Factory in Paju City, South Korea, bring groups of buyers from all over the world to the factory from their hotels in Seoul. Buses from the Andrew White Guitar Factory in Paju City, South Korea, bring groups of buyers from all over the world to the factory from their hotels in Seoul.
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By CYNTHIA McCLOUD

For The State Journal

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown guitar maker Andrew White has received the first 100 Goddess Series guitars produced in the Andrew White Guitar Factory in Paju City, South Korea.

At maximum capacity, the 80,000-square-foot factory will employ 300 people and produce 10,000 instruments a month, White said. The factory is open now and producing and shipping guitars all over the world to distributors in China, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil and Peru.

"Last June, I was contacted by a Korean-based company that makes all sorts of guitar accessories, electric amplifiers, pickups for guitars, a number of different things," White said. "The owner of the company, B. Y. Lim, wanted to do something different, and he had distributors for his other products in 50 countries. They're doing the marketing for the rest of the world, and I am doing the marketing for the United States. They're distributing all over the world the product I have designed and licensed.

"They've probably invested $20 million in the factory and marketing," he said.

Doing business in South Korea means a chance to rapidly advance White's West Virginia company.

"In terms of economic development for the state of West Virginia by doing this deal with a major manufacturer overseas what I've done is I've created two very potentially huge opportunities for my West Virginia company," White said.

"Those opportunities are the distribution of those Korean-made products in the U.S. and because the brand is being developed so quickly and strongly, it's going to create a demand for American-made Andrew White guitars."

White gave an analogy using Ford and Lincoln automobiles.

"The Lincoln in the guitar world is an American-made version of the same product, and it costs more money," he said. "They're developing the Andrew White guitar brand all over the world, and it's going to create demand.

"What we're looking at a year or two or three down the road is creating the opportunity for a distribution business to be created in West Virginia and the opportunity for a small manufacturing facility for American-made guitars to be based in West Virginia."

That's not to say the Korean-made guitars are cheap.

White said the factory site was chosen because of the area's long history and a wealth of knowledge of guitar making.

"South Korea is known for producing very high quality acoustic guitars," White said. "They did such a remarkable job. Essentially what they had to do was learn the utmost nuance in my design and how my guitars function and look.

"We modeled the Goddess Series after the Signature Series, which is an American-made series," White said. "They look the same, and the guitars sound fantastic."

There are three main models in the series — Cybele, Eos and Freja, each named after goddesses in mythology.

When choosing names, "we tried to kind of have the sentiment of what the instrument does itself," White said. "Freja is a Norse goddess of love and war. This particular instrument has this really unique ability to do two things simultaneously that you normally don't get in a guitar.

"Based on the three different models we have about 200 different varieties," he said. "That would include a cutaway or the guitar might have electronics in it to make it amplified. It could have a satin finish or a gloss finish. It could have sunburst green, orange or blue. All those different options are available. We really offer 200 different orderable products that sell in the $600-$1,200 price range."

White is selling the first 100 guitars made out of his shop in Morgantown and online at www.andrewwhiteguitars.com while he tries to line up dealers and distributors to sell the guitars in the United States.

White, who has been a luthier for 12 years starting when he was a student at West Virginia University, still is building handmade guitars for clients.

And he has some famous customers. White is building guitars for country music artist Craig Morgan and his band's guitarist right now. James Valentine, the guitarist for pop/rock band Maroon 5 plays a Model F from the Signature Series. More locally known performers playing White guitars include bluegrass musicians Larry Keel, Keller Williams and Yonder Mountain String Band.