Petaluma musical equipment maker goes all-in on remote work, social media content at new HQ

A 4-decade-old musical accessories company with a global reach is now playing an increasingly popular tune among North Bay companies with its move this month to new Petaluma headquarters.

Ace Products Group, which makes guitar cases, instrument cables and stands, and carts for musical equipment, on Dec. 6 relocated across town to the Foundry Wharf office complex to a space that will hold two workstations instead of 18 for all the staff. That’s because most all the staff had been working remotely since the pandemic public health orders of March 2020 and now will be using the new location for creative collaboration rather than daily congregation, according to Marketing Director Leah Murphy.

“Before, we had a big office with lots of cubicles and people there 9 to 5,” Murphy said. “We decided to go permanently remote. It was novel at first, but it’s great for productivity. We downsized to more flexible space.”

Ace Products had been in its previous 4,800-square-foot space at 3920 Cypress Drive, Suite B, for over a dozen years. By the first weeks of 2023, the company expects to be fully operational in its new 1,716-square-foot location at 625 Second St., Suite 101.

“We’ve had a longstanding issue with the need for more space to produce more audio and video content for the marketing team,” Murphy said. “The largest part of the new space is for social media content creation.”

So a couple of employees will be based in the new location for administrative work, while the rest will be visiting the office to record or photograph products.

Ace Products lines include Struckture stands, cables and accessories; Reunion Blues guitar cases; Rock-N-Roller multi-use carts; Pig Hog cables; and Kases keyboard, instrument and equipment bags and cases.

In the late 1970s, founder Alan Poster developed what became Ace Products Group in 1983. According to music, sound and event trade group NAMM, Poster honed his acumen for the music equipment and accessories wholesaling business in the 1960s while working with the late Jerry Herschman, a pioneer in the business.

The company started rapidly diversifying production of its products from China to surrounding countries amid trade tensions. In 2018 as the U.S. and China sparred over tariffs, Ace Products moved cut, sew and assembly for gig bags and other products to a nearly 100-acre factory complex near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a country the company has been sourcing from for about 15 years, according to Murphy.

Production of other products moved to Malaysia, namely the Rock-N-Roller carts.

Now, the company is eyeing a shift in some manufacturing to Central America, Murphy said. Cart inventor Gary-Michael Dahl connected Ace Products with a developer who plans to build a factory in Belize. Talks have just started on that possibility, Murphy said.

“That’s obviously a much shorter shipping route from Belize to the U.S., so that’ll shave off a lot of time in transit,” she said.

Shortening transoceanic times would be a plus, given the challenges the company has faced amid the global supply-chain crises, which are only now starting to ease from the early days of the pandemic. For example, Ace Products had a container of goods that left a port in Asia in March of this year and was thought lost until it was found in October under a stack of containers that had been accumulating at the Port of Long Beach, Murphy said.

“That’s mostly eased, and the cost of shipping has eased,” she said.

As reported widely in the business press, the cost to move a container from overseas soared. Ace Products had been paying over $25,000 to ship a container east across the Pacific Ocean, but now that cost is back down to $4,000–$5,000 that it had been pre-pandemic.

Ace Products’ is mostly a business-to-business supplier, selling one-third to wholesalers and two-thirds directly to retailers, Murphy said. The company sells to larger music-related retailers such as Sam Ash, Guitar Center, Pitbull Audio and B&H Photo Video. But majority of the customers are smaller chains such as Mississippi Music as well as mom-and-pop vendors including locals Bananas at Large and Loud & Clear.

Annette Cooper of Keegan & Coppin Co. Inc. represented Ace Products in the Foundry Wharf lease, signed Sept. 27. The property owner represented itself.