Heindel Guitars: 
Behind the Scenes – 2010-09-20

By: Katie Sobiech

Joseph Heindel had no clue what he was going to do next with his life, as he moved into his new house.

While fixing the dryer left by the previous owner, he took it apart only to find hundreds of guitar picks inside.  A clue as to what God had for him in the future?  Just maybe…

Graduating from Kent State University with a degree in Fine Arts, and working for a machine shop, he says he knew there was something more for him – possibly a different calling.

“It’s not what I wanted to do, I was working all of the time and didn’t have a life at all,” Heindel said.

Breaking Point

“I had always done metal and mechanical work,” he said.

…But his heart wasn’t there.

“I was really going down a path that wasn’t good either,” he said, “I was drinking way too much and in a relationship that was just a mess.”

One day during the midst of it all he remembers driving up State Road on his normal route to work.

“I remember just praying the ‘Our Father’ and I said ‘Man, I can’t handle it anymore. I can’t take it. This is just miserable’.”

“I would stop in the morning because we started at 6 a.m., and I would go to Doug’s Dinner Bucket.  I was sitting there that day and I looked over and there was a teacher from Kent State,” he said.

Heindel went up to the man and asked “Are you Doug Unger?”

Sure enough, it was.

Unger was a professor Heindel desperately wanted to get in a class with, but was completely booked.

“I thought ‘I’ll take his class next semester’ but he retired and went to Prague or something and painted a castle there – which is awesome,” Heindel shared.

While eating breakfast, they got to know each other better.

“Doug told me ‘I live right in Peninsula, and build banjos and mandolins’ and asked if I ever wanted to come by and check it out. So I went over there and was blown away by his shop and everything.”

Everything Happens for a Reason

Heindel didn’t go back for a couple of months until one day after a tree fell down in his back yard.

While chopping it up he thought ‘What’s the difference between this wood here and the wood you buy at the store?’

So he put it in his basement and went over to Unger’s house.

Not long after that, Heindel was inspired to build his first guitar, a slide guitar, for a friend.

Next he built a violin for his girlfriend at the time, now wife.

“I said ‘I wanna build guitars’. It made sense because that’s what I played, so I started building guitars. I’d be working all day and then come back and build guitars.”

Is This My Calling?

Around the same time, Heindel joined a Christian young adults group where his faith grew.

“I started struggling with the fact that I began to have this strong walk, but I knew I wasn’t a preacher. I didn’t understand what I could do with this (gift),” he said.

He began studying with Tom Ribbecke, a man who possesses what Heindel refers to as “amazing guitar making skills”.

“He’s one of the best in the world really,” Heindel said, “And he’s made such a difference in so many people’s lives. I told him ‘There is no way you could have made this much of a difference in peoples lives by being a preacher, because you’re not. You make it just by doing this.”

During that time Heindel received somewhat of a revelation, that he was to use his gift to minister and fulfill his calling. He could do that while making guitars.

Touching the City

Heindel, a member of South Street Church, has a heart for using his gift to reach out to those in the inner city.

Before getting introduced to South Street Ministries, Heindel, his wife, and their young adults group went to the Haven of Rest, a local homeless shelter, to serve.

“We liked it, but didn’t get much interaction with the people. We couldn’t really talk or sit with them while serving them,” Heindel explained, “We wanted more of an interaction with them so we set up at Grace Park.”

His wife in particular, was on a mission to break out of her comfort zone.

“One day my wife was eating her lunch in Grace Park and was surprised that so many different people would just come up and talk to her, and she would share her lunch and everything,” Heindel said.

This inspired them to begin making trips to the park every other Sunday where they have picnics; bringing in different meals each time.

“It’s not ‘us serving you’.  We try to stay away from the food-line style, but try to make it like a family style thing where we just go, hang out and treat people like people, not like… below us,” Heindel said.

One Sunday during their picnic, a stranger approached them saying “You’ve gotta come to South Street Church, you’ve gotta come to South Street”.

Heindel and his wife took the man’s advice.

“We went to the church and were like ‘Wow, there’s something very real about here’. There were people dealing with very big issues; issues of addiction, issues of felonies, and all of this different stuff. We really thought that (Pastor) Duane (Crabbs) did a great job of relaying and just living out the book of Acts and the New Testament,” Heindel shared.

South Street Ministries

South Street Ministries, led by Pastor Duane Crabbs and his wife Lisa, is now located in what was previously the Kingdom Builders ministry building.

Formerly known as “the church without walls”, South Street prayerfully considered the building as a meeting place.

“Kingdom Builders saw what Duane was doing in the neighborhood and they really liked it,” Heindel said.

Kingdom Builders still have a bible study that meets there on Tuesday nights.

“The building is still half-done, it’s a work in progress,” Heindel said.

A Vision for the City

“When we first started going to the church I talked to Duane about possibly moving into the neighborhood sometime and really being a part of South Street, and being committed to his church and everything,” Heindel said.

They met for coffee, and the rest was history.

“He said ‘Here you go, here’s a key’. He said ‘I trust your heart and know that you have a good prayer life, so here, take the key and do what you want’.” Heindel said.

Heindel now has his own guitar shop in the basement of the South Street building.

What started as an outreach to kids in the neighborhood is slowly evolving into something else. Originally, Heindel invited kids to the shop to teach them how to build a guitar.

“The kids lost interest pretty quick,” he said.

Now he is just following God’s heart and where He leads.

“What we really want here is for stuff to kind of just happen organically. The people that do come have mostly been musicians that will hang out, and a couple of guys that are building guitars that are interested; they will come help out or whatever,” Heindel said.

Charly Murphy with Urban Connection Ministries is also going to set up a coffee shop outside of the South Street Building in the future.

“My wife and I do eventually want to move to the inner city here, or something along those lines. It’s just time…” Heindel said.

For more information on Heindel Guitars please visit http://www.HeindelGuitars.com or call 330.354.8396.


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