Plucky Flourtown merchant busier than ever during pandemic

by Len Lear
Posted 3/10/21

Tim Huenke has been building and repairing guitars at his Fort Washington business, Superior Guitars, for all those years, but during the pandemic, unlike most businesspeople, he has been busier by far than ever before.

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Plucky Flourtown merchant busier than ever during pandemic

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Tim Huenke, 56, a Flourtown resident for the past 17 years, has been building and repairing guitars at his Fort Washington business, Superior Guitars, for all those years, but during the pandemic, unlike most businesspeople, he has been busier by far than ever before.

“I’m just ridiculously backlogged at the moment,” he said last week. “Instrument restoration work takes a long time under the best of circumstances because it’s very tedious, time-consuming, detail-oriented hand-work that has very little margin for error. So it’s difficult to meet people’s expectations in regards to timelines for completion. Enter the pandemic and having to shut down for three months as a non-essential business.

“Once we were able to open back up, the demand for our services has gone through the roof. People are stuck at home. My guess is that they think it’s a good time to get that guitar worked on. Maybe they’ve been putting it off for a long time. We just got a job in from a very well-known guitar player who sent us his 1932 National for some extensive work.

“He’s not currently gigging now due to the pandemic … so he figured it was a good opportunity to get it done now. He’s home with a new baby on the way, not doing live gigs and would like to do an album instead. He needs his favorite guitar done. I’m sure a lot of that thought process is fueling the demand.

“However, demand is a double-edged sword. I’ve only got two hands, and there is a pandemic going on. So, kids are home from school, everyone’s cooped up at home, and that places extra personal demands on your time as a parent and spouse. So I can’t say that the pandemic hasn’t been challenging on many levels, but yes, if you’re going to measure business being good based upon demand, then it’s booming.”

Tim grew up in the Tacony/Bridesburg area of the lower Northeast for the first seven years of his life, then South Jersey, Mt. Airy in 1994 and Flourtown in 2004. It could not have been easy, but Tim taught himself guitar repair, restoration and building. He was surrounded by woodworking and tools his whole life since both his father and stepfather were professional carpenters and cabinet makers.

Tim wanted a great guitar of his own, so he decided to make one. He found that doing so was just as rewarding for him as learning how to play it. By the time he got to Stockton State College to study music, he was doing repairs for other students in the dormitory for spending money.

Working on guitars can be extremely technical. For example, one must understand the geometry of the instrument: the alignment of the neck and bridge and fingerboard in relation to each other. When someone brings in a guitar to Huenke, he often finds the geometry is misaligned. All that tension from the strings will stretch and buckle a neck over the years, which will make the guitar sound poor.

Regarding the cost of repairs, Huenke's least expensive job was about $25, and the most expensive was about $10,000. Basic repair services will generally run from $250 to $600 whereas full restoration work is upwards of $4,000.

When asked what was the best advice Tim ever received, he replied, “'You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.' There’s a lot of wisdom that's hard to follow in those words. I try and do too much because I enjoy and love doing so many things, which comes from a lifetime of ADHD and having that type of interest-based brain wiring.

“It gets me into trouble as I try and schedule time for working on guitars, running our business, which is not at all the same as working on the guitars, home improvement projects, beer brewing, mountain biking and racing, an online engineering class with my daughter, raising a new cattle dog puppy, etc. You get the idea!”

Speaking about his children, Tim said, “I’ve gotta give a shout out to all my kids. The two that are in their 20s, my son Nigel and daughter Nina, are doing remarkably well navigating work and personal life through this pandemic mess. My two at home, Lucas, and Chloe, are doing the same ... So hats off to the kids who are dealing with things on a level that none of us have any parallels with in our younger years.”

For more information, visit superiorguitar.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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