Lewiston’s Pantheon Guitars helps superstars and wannabe stars create hits.
- By: Meadow Rue Merrill
Photograph by Aaron Weins
Sometimes the most interesting people on your shopping list can be the hardest to buy for. The best way to land on that ultimate gift for these people is to delve into their past, and if you discover that they were once a rock-and-roller, you might want to call or visit Pantheon Guitars in Lewiston.
Operating out of an 1840s mill, Pantheon Guitars handcrafts some of the finest acoustic instruments in the business. Folks like Grammy-winning recording artist Ricky Skaggs and singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne, who once worked in a shoe factory next door, play them. And yet these guitars aren’t only for the famous.
“Some of our main customers are guys who played guitar in college, had a great career, raised kids, put them through college, and now they’re asking, ‘What do I want to do next?’ ” says Bonni Lloyd, director of sales and marketing for Pantheon. “It’s about getting back to something they really enjoy.”
Master luthier Dana Bourgeois built his first guitar in his dorm at Bowdoin College in the 1970s. From there, he went on to work for big names such as Martin and Gibson before launching his own brand. For the past ten years, he has worked in Lewiston, leading a small team of employees, selecting each piece of wood, and overseeing the entire guitar-making process. Each guitar takes roughly eight weeks to build. On average, the shop turns out three hundred a year. Depending on the rarity of the wood and level of customization, prices start at $3,395 and climb to $20,000.
“It’s a work of art that you can use,” explains Lloyd. She says she regularly hears positive feedback from customers around the world. “I’ve had people say, ‘It was this or a sports car, and this speaks to my soul.’ ”
Pantheon doesn’t sell its guitars directly, but about fifty dealers nationwide do. (Call Pantheon, and they’ll direct you to the nearest one.) If you’re not quite ready to go all the way to a six- or twelve-string, you can order a ball cap, $20, or T-shirt, $15, with the Bourgeois name emblazoned on it. Starting early next year, tours of the Pantheon workshop will once again be available. Who knows, you might end up rubbing elbows with a superstar — when Bonni Lloyd pulled into work one day not so long ago, bluegrass great Rhonda Vincent’s tour bus was parked out front. 2 Cedar St., Lewiston. 410-254-4433. www.pantheonguitars.com
- By: Meadow Rue Merrill