Couch makes old new again
By Naughty Mickie  notymickie@earthlink.com
Photos by Keith Durflinger

The Couch Guitar Strap booth at the NAMM (music trade) show in Anaheim in January was set in a far corner of one of the big
convention center rooms, much akin to the company's humble beginnings.  Company founder Daniel Perkins was seeking a way to make guitar straps with consistent quality and, like many business owners, decided the best way was to do it himself. He bought a sewing machine, set it up in his garage, learned to sew and began putting out products, with some of his friends' help, in 1999.

"It was more of a hobby for a few years. We would do 100 guitar straps and put them in stores and learn how to make them. We spent five years doing that, casual research and development without the rush of starting a business, we were still in the stores, getting customer feedback," Perkins said.

By 2004, Perkins had become dedicated to his business, although it wasn't until 2007 when he could move it to a proper space for
manufacturing in Signal Hill.

When it comes to guitar straps, plus Couch's other lines- belts, wallets and camera straps, it seems unlikely that there is much room
for innovation, but this is not the case here. Perkins takes pride in his products, which are style-conscious and eco- and economy-friendly. The lines' looks all nod to the vintage and retro trends so hot in fashion today and 35 percent of Couch's total product is created with repurposed materials. The key here, is the use of dead stock (also referred to as new old stock) upholstery vinyls.

"It was a matter of taste, we went into old upholstery shops and all the vinyl I liked I realized wasn't being made any more," Perkins
said. "I realized all my favorite colors and patterns were vintage ones. I started realizing that there was this vinyl that had been sitting there 35 years that no one wanted, but I did."

Upping the repurposed materials ante, some of Couch's camera straps are recycled guitar straps.

The other plus is that all of the products are made in the United States. As his business grew, Perkins began hiring his musician
friends and teaching them how to sew. Couch's customers have responded that they like buying guitar straps from musicians, as they understand the product's demands best.

"There's the green, humanitarian concept, but more importantly for our customers, if someone plays guitar there's a little more love
that's put into the production of the straps," Perkins said. 

Couch has not only remained unaffected by the current economic slump, but its business is up. The products can be found in stores across America, as well as in Singapore, Japan, Australia, Germany, France and other places around the globe. However, the biggest sales are made online with items being shipped directly to the customer from the manufacturing floor.

"On our Web site, you can get a USA made limited edition product for way less than you can get it if you got it in the store," Perkins said.

The ability to offer homemade goods cheaper than his competitors, especially those who outsource, is Couch's best asset, Perkins said. An example of this is that Perkins and his associates spent six months creating the "perfect wallet."

"There's a certain passion to the construction in getting it made really well," Perkins said. "The main point of our stuff is it should
be designed well, function well and be recyclable, everything else is an add-on." 

Perkins is busy building his stock back up from Christmas sales and preparing to find more materials for repurposing.

"There's only going to be so much found upholstery vinyl, so we're going to be looking for the next material to move on to. More raw materials to repurpose into functional items will be one of our next steps for sure," Perkins said.

For more information on Couch Guitar Straps and to see the entire line of products, visit www.couchguitarstraps.com.
 

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