26 April 2024

Haworth Guitars to change hands after more than 30 years, but the melody plays on

| Kellie O'Brien
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Haworth Guitars Glenn Haworth

Glenn (second left) with his mum Silvana, sister Deanna Breasley and dad Phil. Photo: Supplied.

From humble beginnings in the family garage in Kiama Downs more than 30 years ago, cherished institutions Haworth Guitars and Haworth Music School have been sold, with the baton passed on to new owners to continue the legacy and name.

Glenn Haworth decided to sell the Albion Park guitar store, music school and online store this month (April) after the growth of his side hustle, Resolve Business Coaching, which started five years ago to help other businesses with their marketing and sales.

“It felt to me like the time was right to do that,” he said.

“I’ve done that same business my whole life, so I was ready for a change.”

Glenn said his father Phil started building guitars as a hobby from the family home in Kiama Downs in the late 80s.

“He was an industrial arts teacher at St Joseph’s High School at Albion Park and was just building guitars for fun,” he said.

“Then he started building some guitars with students at school and helping them.

“He had a passion for it and decided to go all in building and repairing guitars.”

Glenn said while he was only young when the business started, through primary and high school he would help out in the workshop, repairing or restringing guitars.

He said from there it grew, moving from the garage and workshop at home to a shopfront in Kiama Downs in the mid to late 90s, before adding a second store at Warilla called Shellharbour Music Centre.

Once Glenn finished a marketing and economics degree at university, he decided to join the business full time.

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“When I was 25, I bought a 50 per cent share in the business and then, by the time I was 29, I ended up owning the whole business,” he said.

“It wasn’t all smooth sailing.

“When I joined the business at 29, we had one of our major brands pull the pin and we couldn’t get access to them anymore.

“They did that just a few weeks out from my 30th birthday, I remember.

“That was one of those moments where it’s like, well, I’ve just got this business and now I’ve got this major challenge, how do I deal with this?”

It sparked his journey into mastering marketing techniques like social media, and the creation of an ecommerce platform, ultimately transitioning the business from having primarily an Illawarra clientele to having a thriving national online presence.

“We started the Haworth Music School, so we started teaching musical instruments in the afternoons,” he said.

“All these things I had to learn to really get through that challenge of losing that major brand and to really double down on marketing, but also just in general in retail you’ve got to evolve and adapt.

“Now, more than half of the business is done online.”

He said during the years, his parents Phil and Silvana had made a lot of sacrifices to ensure the business’s success, including working six days a week.

“It was a passion thing too,” he said.

“They’ve helped me so much in the business, even though they technically retired over 10 years ago, helping me with the repairs and mum helping keep an eye on the books.”

READ ALSO Rocking through time: The Shellharbour Club’s musical legacy from Elvis Costello to Iron Maiden

But Phil isn’t stopping any time soon, opting to continue “doing the odd repair to keep the standards up”.

“It’s just so hard to find anyone who has the skills that he has in guitar repairing – it’s such a dying art,” he said.

Glenn said his sister Deanna Breasley, who was involved on and off over the years, would also continue working in the online side of the business.

He said during his time with Haworth there were many highlights, including supporting band competitions, band nights and seeing the next generation of musicians come through.

“A lot of these great artists now, they came to us as kids to buy their first guitar with their parents and have gone on to be in bands like Hockey Dad, Pacific Avenue and The Vanns, so to see that take place has been pretty amazing,” he said.

Other milestones included being recognised among the top 100 music stores globally by the National Association of Music Merchants (NMAA) in America and being the biggest seller of Cole Clark guitars worldwide for five years running.

He’s even broken Guinness World Records.

“To launch our Wollongong store I played ukulele for 25 hours straight and broke the world record for the longest time playing ukulele,” he said.

“To launch our Shellharbour store in 2009 I restrung 30 guitars and tuned them in one hour to break another world record.”

He encouraged the community to continue to support Haworth Guitars and Haworth Music School at Albion Park, with the new owners to be announced soon.

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