Dusty Strings Manufacturing / About Us / History of Dusty Strings

History of Dusty Strings

Interested in more juicy details? Read the story of Hammered Dulcimer #1 on our blog!

When Ray and Sue Mooers started Dusty Strings in 1978, Ray built hammered dulcimers in the couple's basement and the two played and sold them at festivals and craft fairs. After they switched to selling through acoustic music retailers, the business began to grow. They kept adding employees until the basement was no longer big enough.

In 1982, Dusty Strings moved to a new location in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood, and two years later, Ray began experimenting with building folk harps. An accomplished hammered dulcimer player, he had never played harp but was fascinated with the instrument and had long been collecting information on harp design and construction.

About this time, the Dusty Strings Acoustic Music Shop was growing. What originally started as a display room for the dulcimers and harps gradually took on a life of its own, adding other related folk instruments, recordings and such. A few years and a few more staff members later, it had a fine range of acoustic guitars, banjos and mandolins. As its reputation for being a unique, fun and welcoming place to shop for instruments spread, the space swelled to encompass music workshops, a repair shop and an ever-expanding range and depth of high-quality acoustic instruments.

In 1999, the Fremont space was bursting at the seams, and plans were launched for moving the instrument-building portion of the business to a new, larger location. That was accomplished in 2002, opening up more space for an expanded store in the Fremont location and for the long-held dream of starting the Dusty Strings Music School, which officially opened in 2008.

Without ever having expected anything like this at the outset, Ray and Sue at times marvel at what has happened in the course of time. With the help and enthusiasm of many extraordinary people over many years, Dusty Strings now employs more than 40 people and operates a successful acoustic music retail shop and acoustic music school as well as building and shipping harps and hammered dulcimers to customers and retailers all over the world.

They offer a heartfelt thanks to all the staff members, customers and suppliers who have helped to make this happen.

ray and sue play hammered dulcimer and guitar together
Dusty Strings founders Sue and Ray Mooers, 1980
the dusty strings booth at an early craft fair
Craft fair booth, 1980
six employees posing in the basement shop
The Dusty Strings team in 1980
ray works on a hammered dulcimer in the basement shop
Ray Mooers in basement shop, 1978
ray works on a harp and carries a baby in a backpack
Young business owner learning to multi-task
eight employees posing in front of the fremont shop
1985 in front of the Fremont shop
inside of the dusty strings acoustic music store in seattle
Dusty Strings Acoustic Music Shop in Fremont
The entire Dusty Strings staff poses with shovels at the site of the new shop
Breaking ground at the site of the new workshop in 2001
inside of the new dusty strings workshop in seattle's interbay neighborhood
The instrument building shop in Interbay