Greg Bennett’s Franklin Strap has changed the way it feels to play guitar.
If you know the exhilaration that comes from bringing home a brand new guitar, you’re probably familiar with the discomfort that comes from attaching a cheap nylon strap to your beautiful new instrument and hanging it over your shoulder.
But Greg Bennett came up with a cure for every guitarist’s worst hangover and it bears the name of his adopted hometown.
Since 1999, The Franklin Strap Company has shipped nearly one million guitar straps, hand-crafted from high quality leather with an unmatched level of luxurious comfort.
“When you think about leather and rock and roll, that first black leather jacket is like a rite of passage,” says Bennett. “And when you look at a customer handling one of the straps it’s almost primal. It’s like ‘that feels so great!’ And so our challenge was how to develop production and materials and designs in such a way that you can provide this wonderful feel and look and still be affordable.”
Every Franklin Strap is designed right here in town and manufactured in the United States. They come in a variety of styles and colors and retail for about $25 to $100.
Bennett has spent decades in the music business, first as a player (he’s an accomplished guitarist) followed by tenures as an executive with Guitar Center and as a designer of guitars and accessories. Those experiences helped launch The Franklin Strap phenomenon, even if it wasn’t quite by design.
He was pitching his new line of straps – a 2 ½-inch wide black design with five different stitchings – to a former Guitar Center colleague. As Bennett recalls, “He said, ‘My gosh, Greg, these are really wonderful. It’s too bad you don’t have some other colors because I’d take 3,000 straps.’ And it just so happened I had some additional samples. I showed them and said, ‘I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Greg Bennett, President and Chairman of the Franklin Strap Company!’
Right away, he had volume. His first two accounts, Guitar Center and Sam Ash, were the two largest music retailers in the country.
Another key factor was that, unlike guitars, strap sales are not driven by artist endorsements. “It’s one of those rare situations where the actual quality of the product is so evident that all those other things aren’t really necessary,” he says. “It is a bit of an anomaly.”
Born near Buffalo, N.Y. and raised in Evanston, Ill., Bennett’s father was a structural engineer while his mother was into fashion and interior design. He takes after both.
“I’m that sad individual trapped, almost dead center, between right brain and left brain. I’m not driven by the finances; I’m driven by satisfying the customers and the challenges of design.”
A self-proclaimed “brand guy,” Bennett can speak at length about the importance of designing products that are relevant to an identity. In addition to maintaining a high level of quality – Bennett and his staff are meticulous when it comes to sourcing leather – there is the visual identity of the Franklin Strap’s signature curves.
“If you look at one of these straps,” says Bennett, “everyone of those curves is an arc on a perfect circle. To me, it’s sort of like a mini-tribute to those beautiful, fluid lines that you see in all these wonderful guitars that we love so much.”
Bennett says that trouble looms for businesses or entire industries that do not maintain brand standards.
“Years ago the bottom fell out of country music because every act was a copy of Garth Brooks or Faith Hill,” he says. “And there were two songs – the bar boogie and the overproduced ballad. And there were two genders for each.
“In rock and roll, The Who weren’t The Beatles weren’t Hendrix weren’t ZZ Top, Yes, Kiss. It was all wildly different. That’s what branding is. It stands for something. I relate to that.”
Nearly one million guitar players understand what he’s talking about.