SHINE A LIGHT
RED DRAGON ROARS By Michelle Loeb
Jonathan Pugh is currently in his fifth year as owner of Red Dragon Guitars, which has been one of NAMM’s Top 100 Dealers for three years running. A guitar player since 1985, Pugh worked in textile screen-printing for 20 years, but gave up his business to care for a sick relative, and, upon his/her passing, used his inheritance to buy some guitars. “Mainly they were for my own collection, but then I said, ‘Maybe I should sell a few,’” recalled Pugh. And with that, Red Dragon Guitars was born. The online-only shop has a presence on eBay and Reverb — both stores with ratings of 100 percent — and a 3,000-square-foot by-appointment-only showroom that Pugh runs out of the property where he lives. However, the store’s main focus and greatest success has been on Facebook, a site that Pugh first discovered in 2014. “I went on Facebook for the first time, and what I saw
was an opportunity to reach a worldwide audience,” said Pugh. “We do a lot of Facebook boosting to create a following, and it’s easy to talk to our customers via Messenger. I saw an opportunity there, and I took advantage of it to create an audience I could communicate with in real time.” Being able to easily reach customers, and vice versa, is key to Red Dragon Guitars’ business model. “I started this business because the places I bought from gave me no real customer service experience,” said Pugh, who makes himself available to customers 24 hours a day, regardless of where they live. “I have customers from all over the world who call me at all hours. I have customers who call from places like Australia, Indonesia, France and Tokyo at their local time, and I have to be available to them. “When a customer calls at 11 p.m. and I pick up, they can’t believe it,” Pugh continued. “I don’t treat people like they are a number placing an order, so it rarely takes more than 15 minutes for me to respond.” Being cordial and responsive to his clients has helped build a strong word-ofmouth reputation, and Pugh has been able to cultivate a high-end clientele with whom he not only talks about gear but also more personal topics, including their children and families. He is able to update his customers on his inventory to the point where Pugh said that 80 percent of his inventory is presold. “Most of my customers know what they want, so the goal is to sell a guitar before it comes into the shop and ship it directly to my client, untouched,” said Pugh, whose shop carries primarily guitars and amps ranging in price from $2,500 to $25,000, with a plan to expand into accessories in the near future. “We do carry some lower-end items too, just to have them available for customers who want them,” Pugh said, “but the focus is on high-end guitars that aren’t hanging in a store and being played all day long.” Red Dragon Guitars has become the place to go to find products from independent luthiers utilizing exotic woods, exquisite paint jobs, custom airbrush work and other eye-catching attributes that buyers can’t find anywhere else. But in the early years, Pugh acknowledges that he was upset by the fact that larger brands were quick to Red Dragon Guitars 188 Cedarbrook Lane Sparta, NC 28675 (336) 200-4480 www.reddragonguitars. com Jonathan Pugh, Owner
Owner Jonathan Pugh and general manager Donnie Stallard.