Hall Crystal Flutes Celebrate Their 35th Anniversary
When Jim Hall had the idea to make a flute out of glass, people told him it couldn’t be done. Well, that was 35 ago and Jim is still making glass flutes, along with other glass musical instruments. Hall and his wife Jenny run this successful business – It’s hard work, but as Jim tells MMR, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
MMR: How did you get started making flutes, Jim?
Jim Hall: I started a long time ago. I was making bamboo flutes for Christmas presents. I had studied some chemistry and had done a little glass blowing through that. I thought that I would try to make a flute out of glass, and I did. I started selling them and that’s how it all got started.
When I went to get my first piece of glass the guy said, “You can’t make a flute out of glass,” and I said, “Why not?” He replied, “It’s just not done.” I tried it anyway, though, and it made a really nice sound.
MMR: Was it a hard sell at the beginning? What kind of reactions did you get from people?
JH: At shows the stores would come and say they liked them, but they didn’t know if their customers would. Then the Music Stand catalog picked our flutes up, and they had huge distribution then. People started seeing the flutes and began going into music stores and asking for them. That’s what really got them going. That was our big break.
MMR: How were you selling the flutes at the beginning?
JH: Originally at I sold them at arts and crafts shows for about ten years. Then I started selling wholesale and doing the NAMM show. My first NAMM show was in the mid ‘80s.
MMR: When did you begin to design the other instruments like the panpipe and the guitar slides?
JH: I guess we’ve been selling those for about ten years, now.
MMR: How have those instruments been doing? Is the flute still your main seller?
JH: Actually, the guitar slides have been doing quite well. Probably 30 percent of our sales are slides.
MMR: What is the primary demographic of Hall Crystal Flutes consumers?
JH: Usually women out of high school. They had a flute in school and want to buy one, but not pay for the full instrument. A lot of our flutes are decorated with ceramic decals of flowers. Only about 25 percent of our sales go to men.
MMR: Are the products still hand-blown?
JH: I am now using computer-assisted machinery. It is still all hand done; I am behind the machine constantly. I build the machines from scratch and did all of the computer programming on them. The computer performs all of the positioning and the blowing is done by hand.
MMR: How’s the market affecting you right now?
JH: It’s bad, just like everyone else. In this economy, I’m guessing a glass flute will be one of the first things people will take off of their list when it comes to comparing that type of purchase to food or other essentials. But, our export business is doing quite well with Japan and Korea. They love our flutes over there. The economy is rough there too, but we are still seeing good sales.
There seems to be a trend now with people spending more time on the Internet and playing computer games as opposed to making music. But, there are still people who like to do real stuff!
MMR: What is your outlook for the coming year?
JH: Hopefully things will turn around.
MMR: Have you made any adjustments due to the economy?
JH: Yes, we have downsized, as far as employees go. Now it is just my wife and me. I’m working harder now, because I am doing it all myself. It’s working, though. I don’t think we’re going anywhere.
MMR: What do you think has been the key to your longevity?
JH: We make most everything ourselves and, as a manufacturer, you’re creating real value. You work harder, but I think manufacturing is more stable than other things. Everything is hand-made, and the quality is always up.
It’s a home-based business, and I get to watch my kids grow up. My shop is about 400 feet from the house. It’s a nice way to live.