A major guitar manufacturer is making a home in Sicamous.
Mike Miltimore, owner and founder of Riversong Guitars, is in the midst of opening a guitar manufacturing facility in the district, returning to his Shuswap roots.
The road to Sicamous as a manufacturing destination involved some serendipitous events falling into place, explained Miltimore. His family business is Lee’s Music, based in Kamloops, which offers all sorts of services outside of selling musical instruments.
Miltimore is a sound engineer and was working the tech booth at the Southern Interior Local Government Association when he shared with organizers his search for a commercial space to expand Riversong’s guitar manufacturing operation.
An announcement was made at the convention and Miltimore said he couldn’t believe how many local governments approached him with spaces available. However, he chose Sicamous because of its “secret sauce” of affordable commercial rental prices and available resources.
“As a guitar builder, guitars that we build should represent where we live and what we’re around,” said Miltimore. “All the best woods for guitars come from the Pacific Northwest and Interior B.C. Revelstoke’s spruce, broad leaf maple from Chilliwack and area, firs and cedars from right here in Sicamous.”
He also mentioned the climate, noting the Shuswap’s humidity is easily controllable. Using domestic supplies is near and dear to Miltimore’s heart and he said using woods from his favourite places also helps his guitars achieve a high designation in the musical world, using almost 100 per cent Canadian products.
“Scratch them and they smell like maple syrup, basically,” Miltimore laughed.
A large factor in Miltimore’s choice was the personal component.
“I’ve been coming out here with my family for years, and we enjoy the lake and love the town. We’ve met a lot of people we’ve become friends with, and love the community feeling going on there. There’s also a really rich music scene in Sicamous.”
Miltimore’s family also has roots in Salmon Arm. His great-grandparents were some of the original homesteaders there and had a farm, he said, and his great grandmother taught in the one-room schoolhouse.
He added he wished he could have bought their family farm and used the space to build guitars today, but the opportunity never presented itself.
Riversong Guitars started in 2006 in Kamloops, when Miltimore, his dad and friends wanted to build “cool, custom guitars” and over six years developed a new guitar system he later patented.
In 2012, Miltimore won Young Entrepreneur of the Year in B.C. and placed second in Canada. As sales exploded, he found Riversong was outgrowing their building in Kamloops, and said the company stumbled a bit growing too big too fast.
As they grew, they were shortlisted for and then won the MMR Dealers’ Choice Award, beating out Yamaha, Martin and Taylor for Acoustic Guitar of the Year.
The new facility will allow Riversong to keep up with heightened demand, said Miltimore. He recently signed a distribution agreement with Peavey Electronics, and it marks the first time the company will be distributing a brand they don’t own.
Starting in the U.S., guitars produced in Sicamous will eventually be shipped out of Mississippi to Shenzhen, China and further to Pakistan, then to Germany to expand into western Europe.
The Sicamous facility will be capable of producing 800 guitars a month and when it gets to that level, Miltimore will be looking to hire probably eight people, he said.
The factory was previously used to build and house Waterways houseboats, so the building has high ceilings and a wide and tall door, allowing forklifts and machinery better than their previous warehouse, and Miltimore said the space only gives them room to grow. A clubhouse suite is also attached, providing space for employees from Kamloops to stay.
With the goal of opening during the summer put on hold by wildfires and evacuations, Miltimore hopes to be operational by late fall at 1265 Monashee Frontage Rd. Contact information is available at riversongguitars.com.
Miltimore hopes to integrate fully into and support the Sicamous community, even expressing a wish to create a Riversong specialty ice cream flavour at D Dutchman Dairy.
“What matters most is that we’ll be supporting the community.”