[Harp-L] My own experience with Hohner

Since I expressed some of my customers problems last week I thought I'd add my own experiences.
This is with HohnerUSA and not Germany.

I think over the 40 years I've been playing diatonic and chromatic I've only broken a few reeds on a chromatic. The first time was in the early 1980s. A faux wood 280. I owned it about 5 years at that point in time.Shipped it off to Hohner in Hicksville NY. $30 plus later I had it back as good as new. After playing C chroms a couple of years I decided to branch out to the other keys.I purchased a 270-D at the local music store. I thought the thing was naturally difficult to play since it was so breathy. It went into a drawer for the next decade. When I finally pulled it out again after learning how to repair harps I took it apart only to find the comb was cracked in 3 places. It was most likely broken when I bought it but I was too clueless at the time to figure it out. The only other chromatic I sent to Hohner was a MK with a defective comb. The harp was replaced no charge. That was circa 1999.

I was a lifelong fan of Marine Bands but the balance in longevity and costs were becoming way off balance since 2004. I was replacing on average 1 reed every 4 gigs. The last thing I wanted to do as a harp tech is have to spend my free time fixing my own harps. So I took the plunge to buy 2 Seydel 1847's.. I thought for the price it should last at least 5 times as long as MB's. 6 years later I still have the C and A harp as the main harps in my gig bag. I had to replace a reed in the A harp last year. I think about the 3rd year in as a Seydel player I became a Seydel dealer and Indie repairman.

About 2 years ago I came across the most incredible chromatic I've ever seen and played. The Suzuki Maret. It was so pretty I used excuses to keep it a while longer in the shop so I could be in awe of the craftsmanship in a stock chromatic. I was retuning it for a customer that bought it directly from the man himself. It was at that point I decided to become a Suzuki dealer and Indie tech. I had bad experiences working on Suzuki diatonics in the past but this made up for it.

For the longest time I would only work on Hohners as I felt they were the best made and they supported my efforts to keep them in service. I no longer fix diatonics with the exception of restoring prewar models.

Around 2001 or 2002 when Rick Epping was still running things I had a long conversation with him and he freely opened up to me. A few tools I use in the shop today are a direct tie to the tools he showed me that he built including a valve flattening tool. I was starting out in the Filisko Guild and needed replacement reeds for my business so I ordered $800 worth of reeds from the factory. Things were good. After that purchase I was able to open a business account with Hohner to buy parts at a discount so I could make a few bucks doing repairs. Having the discount allowed me to markup the product to Hohner's selling price without the need to tag on labor costs.

Sissi and I were good friends as well as a few other people in the front office. I use to send them a case of wine at Christmas for all the fine treatment and warm hospitality I received throughout the year.

I had someone watching my back in Rick who supported the Indies. I had a knowledgeable friend in Sissi who gave me some history lessons about the various incarnations of chromatics. Like I said, life was good. Business was building and I was a 100% supporter of Hohner.

Things changed with new management. I lost Rick, I lost my business status and had to buy at least $100 in parts at full price before getting a discount. No discounts whatsoever on reed plates. Not sure if the $100 discount on parts still applies. I started telling customers to order directly from Hohner since I would have to mark up the price above Hohner's to make anything on the transaction. I can't ethically expect them to spend more just so I could make money. Sissi was still around but I felt her time there was on loan due to the other changes that took place.

For awhile ordering parts became a challenge after she left. The new people weren't as knowledgeable about the product parts as I was. I had to explain that the CBH didn't have a wood comb. I needed machine screws, not wood screws. A small percent of my clients came to me for service after frustrations in trying to have warranty work done correctly or at all. Most times the option given was to trade in the old harp for a new one. Imagine if car makers told us to trade in our car every time it needed serviced?

I still order parts from Hohner for restoration work otherwise I tell the customer to contact Hohner if they are going to do the work themselves. I probably spend more money there a year on parts then some of you on new harps. Hohner became like the coworker you dated but as time moved on so did the relationship. Encounters are awkward. Any good feelings you had were in the past. You just become two people that once knew each other but are now strangers working together. That's the way Hohner makes me feel now. The teamwork between Indie techs and the mother company no longer exist except with a few that became Hohner endorsees and pitchmen along the way.

I understand there are bumps in the road when changes occur in a corporation. Usually collateral damage. I'm feeling the way a lot of other people are from that damage. Our name meant something when we called the home office. Whether endorsee or tech or regular customer. Now it's like, "I don't know who you are nor your past relationship with us and I don't care to know, this is how things are done now." Want to know my feelings? I didn't abandon Hohner. Hohner abandoned me. So how are they going to fix it?

Take Care Mike www.harmonicarepair.net

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