The Silicon Valley of Its Day

From Modern Guitars, an interview with Fred Gretsch, the fourth generation owner of the Gretsch Guitar Co. Gretsch’s uncle sold the company to Baldwin Pianos in 1967, and apparently the Gretsch marque went downhill fast. So bad that in 1979 Gretsch stopped making guitars. Fred Gretsch was able to buy back the company when Baldwin went bankrupt in 1984 (“the Enron of 1984”). Gretsch operated its Williamsburg factories up until it sold out to Baldwin. Of Williamsburg, Fred Gretsch had this to say:

We were located in the Eastern District of New York as it was called. Williamsburg is what it was also called. Today, it’s called Brooklyn. And that was really a manufacturing Mecca, really much more so than Detroit. But it really came into it’s own in the 1930s and 1940s…

Brooklyn in the 1880s and 1890s was the manufacturing hub and all kinds of innovation was happening there. There were a lot of craftsmen coming over from Europe that we added to our team and to the innovation and manufacturing processes. It was the Silicon Valley of its day! So that’s where we began our guitar making. Probably around 1890. And we were able to use the wealth of all kinds of manufacturing and techniques and new technology in Brooklyn through the ensuing years.

The four (?) Gretsch Buildings still stand on either side of the Williasmburg Bridge. To date, only one is a luxury condo.