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Meet Paris & Elizabeth Patt of Patt’s Guitar Repair

Today we’d like to introduce you to Paris & Elizabeth Patt.

Hi Paris & Elizabeth, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I was a professional musician for most of my adult life, playing various self-taught instruments in every kind of genre from Jazz to Shoegaze to Folk. I was first attracted to guitar repair from the point of view of a musician wanting to maintain and understand his own tools but soon learned that I had a talent and love for the craft. I worked my way up from apprentice to journeyman over ten years honing my bench skills and learning through experience. My business partner and wife, Elizabeth, had also pursued music at a young age but followed her love of art to a career in museums. She eventually became an apprentice in art and sculpture conservation with a private firm and learned about material science and how to work with many different kinds of material. We are both LA natives and have been involved in the LA music scene since we were teenagers. In 2017, we had a moment of realization while we were camping in the Painted Desert in Arizona. Amongst the fallen stone trees of the petrified forest we decided to combine our skills and love of music and create something together. When we returned to Los Angeles, we put our plans in motion, reaching out to friends and family, soliciting advice, and eventually opened up Patt’s Guitar Repair and Instrument Conservation.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
To be honest, it’s been a really difficult three years. I initially shared our retail space with a 501 c(3) run by my mother. She had been running her non-profit organization focusing as an artist think tank and AIDS activist base camp from the same location for the last 18 years, but the rent kept increasing. With our newfound sort of purpose or drive, I spoke with her at length about the possibility of opening up our own guitar repair and instrument conservation shop on her site, so we could contribute towards the rising rent and help her keep the organization physically open. It was honestly one of the best decisions we mutually made. I was so happy to work alongside my mother and help her and for her to help me. We were incredibly close. Lise was diagnosed with cancer in September of 2019 and passed away in November 2019.

It was such a blow, such a loss, and running the business was incredibly difficult at that point. Not to mention, COVID was around the corner, and well. I have no other words than saying it’s been a challenging couple of years. Through all of it — the business has been doing quite well. People have been quarantining and unable to go on tour or record which gives them an opportunity to get their gear worked on. It also seems like some people are picking up old hobbies again and getting their guitar out of the closet only to find that it’s unplayable and in bad need of a set up. We’ve done alright through the Pandemic, and I couldn’t be more grateful to my customers for sticking with me and being supportive. There are also the everyday challenges of the work itself. Each guitar or restoration project presents its own unique set of challenges. The work is never predictable and you will often find the two of us debating over treatments and developing creative solutions to problems. In a way, the entire job is problem-solving.

As you know, we’re big fans of Patt’s Guitar Repair. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
Now located in Culver City (Los Angeles), Patt’s Guitar Repair works on electric and acoustic stringed instruments of all eras. We perform a range of services from basic maintenance to complex restorations, including conservation of rare and heritage instruments. We specialize in guitar repair and restoration but also work on almost all stringed instruments from around the world. We see clients by appointment so that we can have an uninterrupted private consultation. This way, we can go over each guitar in detail, discuss treatment options, and get to know our client’s preferences. Appointments are easy to book directly through our website. We are the only people working in the shop, so our clients have the benefit of speaking directly with the luthiers performing the work. We pride ourselves on maintaining good communication with our clients while their instruments are in the shop and make security and shop safety a priority.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
Time Management. At first, I tried to be accessible and open to everyone at every moment we were open (and even when we were closed). Before we had our current appointment system, it was never predictable when a customer would arrive at the shop. I was often in the middle of a time-sensitive glue operation or a mind-meltingly difficult rewire on an old arch top guitar when a client would ring the doorbell. I would have to stop what I was doing, run to the door, and so on. I would have to sometimes juggle two or three clients at a time, then have to answer the phone — It was just very chaotic. Once I realized this was detrimental to my workflow, as well as the quality of my repair, I decided to implement the appointment system.

In addition, I’ve begun taking appointments on only three days of the week, leaving the other two closed to the public, so I can focus on really difficult repairs. This has allowed me to make my schedule very predictable, be more mindful in the shop, and present when I am focusing on the physical work. My customers also seem to appreciate my attention during appointments. Another lesson I learned is that not everyone will be my customer or client, and that’s totally fine. When I first opened, I felt I had to bend over backward to please everyone — adjusting my prices, adjusting the turnaround time, and even doing less work than I thought a guitar needed because the client insisted. I realized over time that the work we perform here speaks for itself and that I needed to be confident in my work and in myself. I now find myself being much more firm (though still kind) when assessing an instrument’s needs.

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Patt’s Guitar Repair and Instrument Conservation, LLC

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