By Brian Caples
When the iconic Reverend Guitars went up for sale in 2009, Penny Haas and her husband Ken knew immediately to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity. The couple placed an offer, and by 2010 Reverend was theirs.
Penny is currently the COO of Reverend, overseeing all social media, marketing, and day-to-day operations. Since obtaining the company, Reverend has expanded its guitar line to over 50 models, including Signature Artist series models from Jenn Wasner, Greg Koch, and Matt West.
We spoke to Penny about her musical origins, the decision to move Reverend closer to home, and her plans for the rest of 2019.
More information on Reverend Guitars can be found at reverendguitars.com.
The WiMN: Let’s start off by going back to your childhood. How prominent was music in your life growing up? Who were the musicians that made you want to pursue a career in music
PH: I started playing piano at age six. My mom had me in violin lessons (which I hated) and my brother in piano (which he hated). One day I sat down at the piano and picked out a simple piece. From that moment onwards, I just knew I wanted to play music, listen to music, and be around music all the time.
I don’t think there was any single musician that inspired me to play music. I could list all the artists that I obsessed over, but that would take up too much space.
The WiMN: Can you briefly describe some of your day-to-day responsibilities as COO of Reverend Guitars?
PH: Since we are a team of 12 people, I do a bit of everything. Mostly, I am in charge of marketing, but I also spearhead various special concerns. For example, when CITES happened, that was my job to figure all of that out. I spend a lot of time researching and implementing various regulations that almost all businesses just have to comply with.
The WiMN: A wide range of artists have played Reverend guitars throughout the years, from certified legends like Billy Corgan to up-and-comers like Shade Balderose of Code Orange. What causes these artists to become repeat customers?
PH: We make guitars that people want to play and play well right out of the box. I think that’s the number one reason anyone becomes a repeat customer. In the case of these Signature Artists like Billy Corgan or Shade Balderose, we work with the artist to help create the sound they want. Or, sometimes it’s not the sound that makes it a signature guitar. With Jenn Wasner, she loves her Reverend Charger HB, but she wanted one that had a very specific look. We worked with the artist April Camlin to design a version of the Charger HB that matched Jenn’s distinctive stagewear. It was about the whole artistic vision.
The WiMN: You currently play keyboard in The Polka Floyd Show with your husband Ken. Do you feel having experience in a band helps you better understand your customers’ needs?
PH: I did play in The Polka Floyd Show for over ten years, but I recently took a hiatus for family reasons. I absolutely think that being in a band helps to know what our customers go through on a regular basis. Everyone that works here is currently or was previously in a band, and most of them have at least regional touring experience. We all have had the experience of being on stage and your gear stops working. We’ve all been in that spot where you have to borrow something or find a music store in a strange city. So that motivates us to make a great quality guitar or a great quality bass to lessen that experience for our customers.
The WiMN: Back in 2015, you and your husband Ken decided to relocate the company to Toledo, Ohio. What inspired this decision?
PH: We live in the Toledo-area, as do most of our employees. We were making the commute every day – about an hour each way. So when we outgrew our old location, we wanted to find something closer. We looked all over Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan, but by chance, the perfect spot was only about 4 miles from our home. We relocated a couple of people and made the big move. And Toledo has been very good to us – it’s a supportive city.
The WiMN: Have you seen an increase in opportunities for women in this industry in recent years?
PH: When I went to my first NAMM show 18 years ago, it was rare to see women in leadership positions. And the women who were in those positions were always discussed as if they were some kind of unicorn. Now, it’s much more commonplace – and that’s a good thing.
The WiMN: Do you have any advice for women looking to pursue a career in the music industry?
PH: Don’t let anyone treat you like you’re an accessory.
The WiMN: Finally, what’s in store for the rest of the year?
PH: We have a Limited Edition guitar coming out this month – the Reverend Sensei RT LE. It’s a set neck guitar with our Revtron mini-humbuckers, a Bigsby, and comes in five different sparkle color options. We traditionally offer something a bit wild in the fall to tide people over until all of the new releases at NAMM.