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Hillsboro small business grabs national kudos

Five Star Guitars owners fine tune instruments, business acumen

For the folks at Hillsboro’s Five Star Guitars, it’s all about relationships — with clients and with employees.

Five Star Guitars co-owners Geoff Metts, Jeremie Murfin, and Johnpaul Simonet were honored in Washington, D.C. last week as the 2016 Small Business Administration Oregon Small Business Persons of the Year.

The three are doing their part to keep both local and national musicians ready to jam.

“Our goal has been to create the best place for our customers to shop and for our employees to work,” says Metts, who leads Five Star’s business development efforts. Murfin functions as the team’s Chief Financial Officer, handling bookkeeping and payroll functions, and Simonet keeps Five Star operationally aligned with IT and point-of-sale configurations.

In 2011, the three were presented with the opportunity to buy the shop, which has been in business in Tanasbourne since 1998. They knew from experience that they could run the store operationally — but was it a good investment? Before jumping in, the trio sought the counsel of Portland Community College Small Business Development Center advisors at the Willow Creek campus in Beaverton.

After extensive research and number-crunching, the three would-be owners decided to take the leap. They have been fine tuning their business management skills ever since, opening a second store in downtown Hillsboro to serve that portion of town.

“I remember growing up and going to guitar shops,” Metts recalls. “I thought, ‘Wow, those guys have the coolest job,’ and now I’m in the same business.”

Since taking ownership in February 2012, Five Star Guitars has made great strides, increasing the number of employees, registering double digit sales growth and managing company liabilities.

What’s the secret to success? For Five Star Guitars it’s a panorama of business competencies, including operating their retail sales locations, providing music lessons, performing as a top-notch warranty repair center, and growing web sales.

Five Star Guitars keeps prices competitive, while looking to deliver a long-term view toward customer relationships.

Whether someone is buying a first instrument, or a professional looking for the newest unique accessory, Metts and crew takes pride in offering value through service before and after every sale. The retail shops also feature a number of local suppliers, from custom guitar straps to artistic locally made pedals.

“We offer repairs ranging from basic instrument maintenance, like restrings and set-ups to more intensive repairs. We recently restored a turn-of-the-century Gibson mandolin,” Metts says. “We are a certified warranty repair center for a number of top brands allowing customers to have work done locally.”

The business also strives to help young musicians in the community. Its music lesson program sponsors quarterly concerts so students can showcase their skills and learn to play as part of an ensemble.

The next concert is scheduled for Saturday, June 11, at the downtown Hillsboro Farmers’ Market. The team also works with school band directors and local parks and recreation music camps.

Metts serves on the board of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, and all three owners play in various local bands.

“Portland is one of the great music, arts, and food cities — from singer-songwriter coffee shops to big name venues,” Metts says, “And we are happy to be a part of the community.”

National Small Business Week has been celebrated since 1963. This year, Small Business Week was celebrated May 1 to 7, with a kickoff celebration with SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet recognizing the Small Business Person of the Year from each state.

This year’s theme was “Dream Big, Start Small.”