I started JHS Pedals in my spare time, as a hobby and something that I loved to do, just because I loved doing it. I never thought it would be more than offering a few cool effects pedals to players like myself. I remember the smile on my face the first time I heard my first working circuit, the way my Strat sounded like I had never heard it before. I remember the way I felt after screwing in the last bottom plate screw on the Morning Glory prototype. I had built it from a hand-etched circuit board in a plain, undrilled aluminum enclosure with parts that I picked up at the local electronics shop; it’s a memory I will never forget.
Over the years, JHS has evolved from that small, hobby-driven identity into a full-scale boutique effects pedal company with almost 15 employees and over 150 select dealers from all over the world. As of August, 2013, we build around 1000 units per month including our standard JHS Pedals, JHS Mods, and custom shop work. It is a task that’s as difficult as it sounds, but with good reason. Each case is powder-coated and drilled by hand, each circuit board is assembled and populated, and every jack, potentiometer, piece of wire, foot-switch or drop of solder is placed carefully by a human hand, by us, here in Kansas City Missouri USA. To many people, this would not matter, but it does to me, and this is why…
I believe we are at one of the most crucial moments in America’s story. As a nation, we have slowly found ourselves buried under high percentages of unemployment and a lack of identity due to the crowded market of world business and failed economic policies in our larger-than-life American corporations. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between or idle ground for growth or getting your feet off the ground; America’s businesses either make it or they don’t. To put it in simpler terms, American business is a “dog-eat-dog” climate, forcing you to go one of two ways. The first seems to be starting with a business degree, a master plan and startup funds, leading to the corporate climb, hopeful world domination, and a yacht on the Indian Ocean. The other approach begins with a great idea and the right timing, taking a chance on the unknown and good old-fashioned American entrepreneurship. Sidenote – hey we’re not against sailing yachts and making money. Of course there’s some overlap and cross-over in many situations, but we’re not trying to write a book about how to start a business. We’ll leave that the these guys. Now back on topic…..the latter option is birthed out of doing something you love, even if it tanks, even if it is never seen by anyone other than yourself. It is the option that doesn’t usually make sense and usually feels reckless, scary and full of uncertainty. Option one is great, and deserves respect in its own right, as it seems to be the most professional, by-the-book choice. Option two, though, gives you that feeling of riding a 200 MPH zipline down into a 1000 foot cavern, with no idea of what you’re getting into. JHS Pedals has been option two for me. Even though the zipline has rips and gashes in it, and I have felt like maybe I should have strapped on a parachute, just in case, I have loved every minute of it. Who has time for a safety net when you’re busy having fun? Right?
JHS Pedals became a business because people loved what they heard from our pedals, and that love for tone fueled the engine bringing us to where we are today as a company. I can’t, in my right mind, justify changing the very recipe that put my pedals in front of the world and you. How would you feel if your favorite local restaurant altered its signature recipes because it had grown popular and they no longer wanted to invest the time in the painstaking details that had made you fall in love with their food? In our industry, that seems to happen a lot more than I would like to see. Money can cause people to do crazy things, and it can also cause businesses and leaders to lose track of why they were doing things the way they did in the first place.
The first day that I realized JHS was more than a hobby, I wrote a list of 10 core values. On that list, I wrote the heart of what we are about, and value #1 was and is “Never replace people with robots.” There are a lot of reasons that value is important, but in hindsight I realize the biggest one: nothing replaces human hands, crafting something in the way that only human hands can craft. When you plug your guitar pedal in, you know that the input jack was installed by a human, and checked to make sure it was done perfectly. When you play your guitar through a JHS pedal, you will hear the way your guitar comes to life. More than a clever circuit or a mathematical equation that shapes your tone, the human hand that built that pedal is just like your hand, holding the pick. There is nothing that replaces hand-built.
One more thing is at stake as you decide whether or not to buy a JHS pedal, bigger than tone or how well you play that Hendrix lick at the show or in your bedroom. That thing is American jobs. Every day, I come to work and sit at my table, in a little shop located just outside Kansas City, MO. Inside this shop, there are 15 friends, dedicated to giving 110% to making JHS a company we can be proud of. We are young and old, married with kids and single, all real people who are now employed, in an economy that hates to employ. They are reason enough for me to tell you that when you buy a JHS pedal, it will sound great and last for years to come, but more importantly, you are creating and sustaining American jobs and a livelihood that no robot could ever understand.
Founder & Owner, JHS Pedals
August 24, 2012
LEFT: Morning Glory prototype, 2008
RIGHT: current production Morning Glory, 2012
just finished populating Sweet Tea PCBs
Nick and Nick building away at the JHS shop
JHS 808s getting wired and LEDs dropped in