Your Story. Made Here: Sweetwater
Your Story. Made Here: Sweetwater
By Melissa Long- 21Alive
By Ian Hoover- 21Alive
November 19, 2014 Updated Nov 19, 2014 at 7:41 AM EST
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) -- Chuck Surack is in the passion business. His passion, and other peoples. His well-known business SWEETWATER began with love, in the back of a VW microbus. Here is this week’s Your Story Made Here:
Chuck Surack was a young entrepreneur in 1979 when he took possession of his parents 66 VW microbus to start a business recording local music groups.
Chuck says: “I would go in, set the bus beside the building, run 200 feet of microphone cables inside the building and I would record the band or the choir and I would sit inside the bus with headphones and hopefully make them sound even better than they sounded inside the building.”
As business grew, he moved some operations to the living room of his mobile home…then to a second, larger home, and then a third.
Chuck Surack says:”There weren’t very many people doing it. It was expensive to buy that sort of equipment, but also just the love of doing it. I really had a passion for it and I went around and shared my passion of making music better with musicians and so lots of referrals.”
The business became so successful that Chuck found himself surrounded!
Chuck Surack says:” It got to the point where people were coming all hours of the night and day. I had 5 employees working for me out of the home and I’d be upstairs and come down to take a shower and I literally didn’t know who would be in the home. It wasn’t unusual to have Kenny Roger’s bus sitting out there…or other famous artists.”
So, the business moved again, to it’s first commercial building on Bass Rd. Sweetwater Sound was there for 17 years, moving in with 5 employees and moving out with 200.
Today, the huge Sweetwater building on US 30 employs about 800 people. The business did sales of close to 400 million dollars. The building itself is impressive, an eco-friendly structure with tons of neat features….like this spiral slide,,,just for fun.
Chuck Surack says:”Lots of things go on in this building. The first is that we talk to musicians all over the country and all over the world and help them with their equipment and we help them with their dreams and with their passion.”
To do that, Sweetwater employs about 200 sales engineers who are rigorously educated and trained. Most of them have degrees in music technology. There is also a local store where Chuck stopped and tickled the electronic ivories for us. (nat sot)
There’s a music academy too, where 500 students a week are taught, keyboard, vocals, guitar…by the likes of Don Carr, former lead guitarist for the Oak Ridge Boys….now a Sweetwater employee:
Don Carr says:”I was recruited by Sweetwater for my specific abilities, knowledge and background. Chuck has an amazing vision and incredible aptitude for carrying that out. It filters down to everybody and every aspect of the business. It’s just amazing…it really is.”
Carr also plays as a studio musician. The roots of the business are still there, only now, a world-class recording studio has replaced the VW bus.
The retail side of the company deals with the biggest names in the business: Paul Simon, John Mellencamp. The warehouse fills about 5 thousand orders a day.
Sweetwater has really put Fort Wayne on the music industry map…and Chuck Surack is happy to be here.
Chuck Surack says:”Fort Wayne’s my home and I think the quality of life that we all talk about is a real thing. All you have to do is go visit one of those other big cities and you go “I’m just so happy to be back in Fort Wayne…and so we’ve made a point of moving employees and customers to Ft. Wayne”
Sweetwater supports hundreds of local non-profit organizations each year. Often Chuck’s own band can be seen playing at charity events.
Chuck says: “I love all kinds of music and I have the chance to interact with lots of different musicians and lots of different styles and genres of music but it’s definitely a passion and once that passion starts…it’s hard to stop it.”'