Company to Watch: BF Strings specializes in the restoration, repair and sale of fine string instruments.
Entrepreneurs // Mark Franzke and Glenn Bradford
Company Information // BF Strings | 4448 Belleview Kansas City, MO 64111 | (816) 283-0400 | www.bfstrings.com
Type of Business // A shop specializing in string instruments—including retail, repair and custom builds.
Year Founded // 2015
Mark Franzke steps from behind the counter at BF Strings and settles into a padded chair, one of several pieces of furniture arranged “in the round” in the shop.
Dozens of new and rebuilt banjos, mandolins and guitars are displayed on the walls and on floor stands. The shop features new, vintage and custom instruments and is a dealer for several high-quality established brands. It also sells its own proprietary Hawthorn line of banjos,
mandolins and guitars.
Franzke—a retired Hallmark artist, musician and luthier (maker of stringed instruments)—and retired lawyer Glenn Bradford founded BF Strings in January 2015.
During the course of a 40-year law career, Bradford, who plays mandolin and acoustic guitar, collected high-quality stringed instruments and befriended the luthiers like Franzke who made them. Today, Bradford handles the business side of BF Strings while Franzke concentrates on building custom instruments by hand, and restoring and repairing older instruments.
“I’m a builder,” said Franzke, who handcrafted his first mandolin in 1978. “Our knowledge and expertise is second to none.”
Memorable projects include a complete rebuild of a 1950s Gibson, using original hardware and electronics. “I brought the guitar back to life,” Franzke said.
He can handle about five orders for new, custom instruments at a time between repair and restoration work. It takes six to eight months to build a custom instrument.
“The bulk of work is day-to-day repair,” Franzke said. “Restoration and scratch-building is time-consuming, but it is the most enjoyable work. I go back and forth with customers and work out how they want to modify the instrument.”
Often, customers want a custom inlay, such as mother of pearl, in the fretboard, or they request some other modification to personalize the instrument. They can choose the wood, hardware and finish of their piece.
Locals love the shop: The Pitch’s “Best of Kansas City” Awards have recognized BF Strings as one of the area’s best places to buy musical instruments.
Franzke is proud that BF Strings is a resource and gathering spot for local musicians. Guitarists, banjo players and other musicians meet at the shop for jam sessions.
Franzke said, “I like being involved with the community, such as supporting the Westport Roots Festival, and being a place where local musicians like to hang out.”