Both a manufacturer and a retailer, Fugate Inc. is on a mission “to continue to perfect the sculpture of sound.” The Morton-based company was founded by Brett Fugate, who was dislocated when the Musser Division of Conn-Selmer, a producer of percussion instruments, closed its La Grange, Illinois plant. The firm, founded as a sole proprietorship in 2013, was incorporated in 2016.
Fugate Inc. offers its own brand-name products, including custom drums, marimbas and a full line of band instruments, including percussion, woodwinds and brass. The retail store also sells vintage guitars and other musical products, as well as raw materials for hardware—such as wood, stainless steel and aluminum—specializing in materials that are not readily available at big-box hardware stores.
The company also performs Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) work for other entities. It currently holds a contract with the National Park Service to fabricate the wind chimes for the Tower of Voices, a national monument designed to represent the voices of the heroes of Flight 93. On September 11, 2001, Flight 93 was the only hijacked aircraft that did not reach its intended target because the passengers and crew fought the hijackers and crashed it into a field in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania. This project has brought national and international attention to Fugate’s innovative work, which includes a portfolio of patents and other patents pending on a variety of technologies.
Even before starting the business, Fugate began consulting with the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship. “I knew my job with Musser was ending, and I knew that I wanted to stay focused on tuning percussion instruments,” he explains. “As I was continuously trying to grow the business, I learned about the PTAC [Procurement Technical Assistance Center].” Working with PTAC Director Keli Krueger-Huhra, Fugate was able to land the Tower of Voices contract, and he has continued to consult with the International Trade Center (ITC) on other aspects of the business.
“The Turner Center for Entrepreneurship is a great community resource,” Fugate notes. “They can advise and help you—but at the end of the day, you are the one who has to take their advice and make it work.” fugatedrums.com PM