Dana Bourgeois did not expect to run into Bob Smallwood at his class reunion, but this chance meeting proved to be serendipitous for Bourgeois Guitars. Fellow alumni from Bowdoin College, Bob had actually met Dana while he was building his first guitar in his dorm room. In the years since, as Dana was building Bourgeois Guitars into a respected brand, Bob has spent the bulk of his career designing, building and managing manufacturing companies. In 2008 Bob retired from his position as the President and CEO of a corn mill and energy company to indulge in his passions; horsemanship, martial arts, firefighting, emergency medicine, and of course music. A frequent performer near his home in Estes Park, Colorado with his wife Sonjia, Bob’s lifelong passion for the guitar began in 1964, the night that the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show – just as it did for Dana Bourgeois. Dana was able to convince Bob to come out of retirement and join the Bourgeois Guitars team.
Bob and Sonjia performing in Colorado
For the last 16 years, Bourgeois Guitars have been handcrafted in the oldest textile mill in Lewiston, Maine. In 2016 the mill owners informed Bourgeois that they closing the doors for good, forcing Bourgeois Guitars to relocate in 2017. Dana and Bob talked for hours at the reunion, and then continued the conversation over the next couple of months. This precipitated in Bob and Sonjia joining the company in September of 2016, with Bob accepting the position as the new President/COO, CFO. Since then, Bob’s focus has been on finding the best location, designing a new factory for the future of Bourgeois, building the new facility and relocating the operation. All of this has been accomplished and Bourgeois Guitars are now in full production in their new home at the Hill Mill in Lewiston, ME.
The Hill Mill in Lewiston ME, the new home of Bourgeois
The new factory offers significant improvements, including modern climate control innovations, a new workplace layout, a more efficient work flow, a significant energy savings and improved lighting. This was a team effort, with all of the employees having a say in the design of their individual work stations and departments. This new facility will be featured in a separate article.
Our team members took Bob’s career long mantra of “Happy people, safely making, great stuff, efficiently” and voiced this mantra into our company mission statement which reads:
To provide guitarists with instruments of the highest possible quality. We judge the quality of a guitar first by the music it is capable of producing in the hands of accomplished players, and additionally by its workmanship, durability, and aesthetic features. We strive to be talented, happy people, safely making the finest guitars on earth in the most efficient manner possible. In doing so, we will operate a profitable business and foster profitable relationships among all of our stakeholders.
This mission statement helps us prioritize our objectives and serves as our moral compass
Bob’s wife Sonjia is now the voice on the phone when you call Bourgeois Guitars. She handles all of our accounting, purchasing, payroll, and human resource responsibilities. A woman of many skills and talents, Sonjia did all of the drafting work required to layout the new factory, which included measuring, drawing and cutting out scale models of each machine to enable us to experiment with our workplace designs.
Bob and Sonjia’s Wedding Picture
The Smallwood home is located in the glorious rocky mountains outside of Estes Park, Colorado. Bob was the Assistant Fire Chief and Medical Training Director of the Glen Haven Volunteer Fire Department. Sonjia, a 100lb firefighter and emergency medical responder, was decorated with Bob for heroism during the floods of 2013. Bob and Sonjia volunteered at the same food bank in Estes Park when they met and fell in love 6 years ago. Together they were part of the music entertainment scene in Colorado’s northern mountain communities. Now, they have stepped from one adventure to another by relocating to Maine to join Dana at Bourgeois Guitars. They are excited to help write the next chapter for this venerable brand.