Today’s #dayinthelife spotlight is on Grado Labs. The company creates audiophile-worthy headphones (reviewed by Stereophile) and vinyl record cartridges in Brooklyn, New York, and much of the products are made by hand. Deep in family ties, the company is currently running under both 2nd and 3rd generation family members. Jon Grado, VP of Marketing, and his father John, CEO and President, keep the values and mission of the company strong. See more detail in the interview with Jon, and find our how the company stays a quality leader in such a competitive market. Plus, be sure to
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INTERVIEW WITH JONATHAN GRADO
1. What’s the inspiration for your name?
Grado came from our last name! My great grandparents are from Sicily and brought the name over. A lot of Grado’s fans ask if it’s pronounced ‘Gray-doh’ or ‘Grah-doh’; both work but there is a “right” way that we have gone by since the beginning. We like to keep it a mystery though so you won’t be hearing the answer from me! Maybe you can bribe my younger brother.
2. What pushed you to start your own company?
It’s been 61 years since Grado was started, and we’re still in the same spot: Brooklyn, New York. Back in 1953 my Great Uncle Joe had to decide opening a Grado fruit store or an audio company…nothing against fruit but I think we are all content with his decision.
3. Why did you choose your current product line?
Our current headphone line up is curated to every type of listener: casual, audiophile, engineer, editor, artist, and more. The one most important factor to us though, is sound. So no matter what type of listener you are, you’ll always get that Grado sound. Everything from our entry level SR60i’s to our flagship PS1000s (those giant reflective beauties).
4. Where do you grab your inspiration for new ideas?
Honestly it comes from all over. If you look at our headphones you’ll notice that their designs are either very industrial or organic, it really is in two different spectrums. SR325is and PS500? Beautifully industrial. RS1i and GS1000i? Naturally organic. We have our Listening Room at Grado and it’s there that we design the headphones. My dad, John Grado, has had the same equipment and music setup in there for years now. From there we can tell the minute changes that happen in the design of our headphones and can shape how we want the sound to be.
5. What’s your goal for the company in the next 5 years…10 years?
We haven’t advertised since 1964. Thats a very long time. Being VP of Marketing and not advertising forces me to get creative and find ways to help get the name out there without commercials, billboards, skywriting messages in the sky, etc. Although that last one…gonna have to run that by my dad later. My main focus is getting the Grado name out there and strengthening the Grado community. We’ve had 60 years to perfect the sound, and now I’d like for more people to know about it.
6. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in your journey?
In my whole journey? Customer service. I spent five summers, started when I was 17, working at an amusement park in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. It’s basically a crash course in customer service. I could sit here for hours typing out stories from those summer, but I’ll leave that for when WeShopAmusementParkStories gets made. It really did help though. That got me ready for talking to Grado fans every day, which has become one of my biggest passions. I’m always looking forward to connecting with them. So a big thank you to my bosses during those summers, Mel and Kevin. Also my mom, if she sees I gave a shoutout without giving one to her this could be the last time anyone hears from me.
7. What key component has made your business successful?
Our fans. They’ve been incredibly supportive and loyal to Grado. I mentioned earlier that Grado hasn’t advertised in a while; word of mouth is what really helped us grow over the decades. Word of mouth thanks to the Grado users who’ve been with us from the beginning to the Grado users who picked up their first pair yesterday.
8. Why is making by American hands important to you?
It’s nice to know that we’ve kept true to our roots here in Brooklyn. We were founded here and we still create here as well. Plus we’ve been able to connect with great Brooklyn based companies like Carrot Creative and VICE.
9. What ways have you benefited by focusing on “American-made”?
We’re proud to be representing Brooklyn and delivering a high quality product that’s been enjoyed for over 60 years. It’s feels good to say that we still make products in the building that I grew up in (moved to another part of Brooklyn in 1998).
10. What message would you like to give American consumers?
We’d want to tell them that they’ve been awesome. All our fans worldwide have been. We’re still a small company and the support they’ve shown for us is crazy. When I hear someone is excited because of a pair of Grados, I usually get more excited then them to hear that. Just want to say thank you.