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A Really Sweet Visit to

February 20, 2023
A Really Sweet Visit to

I recently visited Sweetwater's headquarters in Fort Wayne, IN, to speak to their engineers on leadership. It was a huge honor, and I consider it one of my highest achievements as a tech speaker.

I love speaking to folks in technology. My mission is to encourage people to be more awesome, to learn new skills, to practice, to have patience, to extend grace to themselves and one another, to have more empathy, and to recognize the amazing potential they have to make a positive impact on their workplaces, family, community and the world. Every opportunity to connect with people and share these ideas is a privilege and an honor I never want to take for granted.

So why was this talk at Sweetwater so special?

Sweetwater is the largest online retailer of musical instruments and pro audio gear. As a musician, I've been a loyal customer and a huge fan of Sweetwater's customer service for many years. They pack candy in every shipment. How sweet is that?!

Sweetwater bag of candy

This talk was an opportunity to combine my passion for technology, my love for guitars and music, my mission to encourage people, and a behind-the-scenes look into one of my favorite companies. For me, it doesn't get much sweeter than that!

Speaking at Sweetwater Sweet Geek Speaks

Eric Potter, Director of Technical Education, was a gracious host and gave us an in-depth tour of the office, studio, and warehouse. I truly geeked out over the history and details of the Sweetwater facilities that make for an amazing experience for customers and employees. At Sweetwater's headquarters, you'll find:

  • the largest music store in the US,
  • the Downbeat Diner restaurant,
  • the Crescendo Cafe coffee shop,
  • the Sweetwater Academy for private music lessons,
  • state-of-the-art recording studios,
  • an arcade,
  • a slide,
  • and several event stages for live audio/video production.

David playing a sweet guitar in the Sweetwater store

One example of Sweetwater's incredible customer service is the 55-point quality check. Every guitar and bass that sells for more than $299 goes through this inspection. When a staff member finds an issue, it is fixed immediately or returned to the manufacturer. After passing inspection, each guitar is weighed and photographed. Customers can examine the details of each guitar down to the wood grain before purchasing!

A fraction of the just the guitars in the warehouse!

A Brief History of Sweetwater

In the late '70s, Sweetwater's founder Chuck Surack used his 1966 Volkswagen Bus, a 4-track reel-to-reel tape recorder, and other audio gear as a portable studio to record artists, bands, and speakers on location. His business grew to a garage studio, and he began selling sound libraries for Kurzweil keyboards and other audio gear to fellow musicians. By 2016, Sweetwater became the largest online retailer of musical instruments and pro audio gear. Sweetwater continues to operate a professional recording studio.

1966 VW Bus Portable Studio

One More Sweetwater Story

In 2020, Sweetwater held its annual Gearfest online. There was an interview with Chuck Surack where he talked about the history of Sweetwater and the company's culture. I was so impressed with Chuck's humble attitude and genuine care for customers that I replayed the recording for my family and illustrated a quote from the interview.

Always do the right thing and it will come back to you. - Chuck Surack

Chuck saw the illustration and sent me a personal email thanking me. I later received a package from Sweetwater filled with merchandise from their store, including a signed VW Bus model! That VW Bus has been proudly displayed in the background of all my videos and live streams since.

VW Bus model signed by Chuck Surack that reads, David, Thank you for the great picture - Chuck