Was it Frank Zappa who said, "Necessity is the mother of invention"? Well, actually, no. This old proverb traces its roots back to Plato. But attributing SoCal's greatest rock & roll pioneer sounds best when it comes to the story of a young Yorba Linda music equipment startup called Gruv Gear.
Let's start with the necessity: Back in the middle part of the last decade, Gruv Gear founder and president Jay Baldemor, 42, was a graphic designer by day who owned a successful commercial operation. By night, Baldemor was a hard-gigging bassist on the south shore club circuit, playing three nights a week in a handful of local bands you may remember–3 Mile Walk, The Ming Band, and Destination 7. Like any bassist with a respectable rig will tell you, Baldemor's gear was a pain in the ass to lug around. "I was playing these gigs on Pine St. in Long Beach, parking in the structure and walking down to the restaurant–it was just killing me."
The invention was a hand truck heavy duty enough for his 100-lb. speaker cab but small enough to fit in his car. "Go to Home Depot, they were too huge and clunky, or you go to office supply store and get these little tiny things you fold up, and these just like couldn't carry my gear," he says. He found a cart from a New York City exporter that was just right for what he needed and white-labeled the product under the Gruv Gear brand, until the manufacturer went out of business. "That's when I decided [since] the design had some flaws anyway, let's get some industrial designers and build our own thing," Baldemor says. "So that's what we did."
Thus, 2010 spawned the genesis of Gruv Gear's flagship product, the V-Cart, a cart the size of two backpacks side-by-side and a capacity of over 500 lbs.
Almost immediately, Baldemor took the V-Cart on the tradeshow circuit, where it was an instant hit after he lent out models to fellow exhibitors to set up their booths. From that initial buzz, Baldemor developed a boutique storage pack for the cart, marking Gruv Gear's entrance into the cut-and-sew industry. Their latest product, the GigBlade, a sleek, ergonomic gig bag with extra of cargo space for cables, strings, tools, tuners and all the other loose equipment guitarists tote around, was the talk of the 2014 NAMM show, and just closed a Kickstarter campaign that raised $71K in demand.
The results are thrilling for the young company, which is now Baldemor's full time gig having recently sold the design business. He has five employees working underneath him. "It takes 200% of my time. It's a lot of work, a fun business to be in," he says.
Right now, their bestseller is the FretWrap, a fuzzy sweatband-type thing used by shred-style players that dulls unwanted string resonance when playing weedly-wah finger-tapping licks. "Everyone all over the world is using them, it's crazy," Baldemor says. "I wouldn't have imagined that was going to be the situation for us." Furthermore, last year they inked distribution deals for all of their products in Canada, Europe and Asia, and they've been traveling to tradeshows worldwide demoing their wares.
"Going global is pretty exciting," Baldemor says. "A company that's four years old to have distribution all over the place and being recognized… asking people, 'have you heard of us?' and them saying 'of course.' That kind of answer is pretty cool."