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Thread: Oliver Archut-TAB Funkenwerk

  1. #1
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    Oliver Archut-TAB Funkenwerk

    Oliver Archut just sent me this wonderful article from the LA Times which describes his move from Washington state to Kansas. It's a charming story, and means a lot to me because Oliver had just spent three days in a truck hauling all his stuff from Washington to Kansas when he parked the truck and hauled himself down here to Nashville to participate in the Preamps in Paradise Summit, with literally an overnight stopover.

    I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. This article is posted here with the permission of the author, Stephanie Simon. If you'd like to wish Oliver and Gwen the best in their new home, you can email them at mailto:oliver@tab-funkenwerk.comoliver@tab-funkenwerk.com</A> .



    Los Angeles Times
    Wednesday December 22, 2004

    Real Estate Hunters Go Old School
    * For a new home or new venture, urbanites are snapping up entire campuses in the Midwest that have closed due to a lack of students.


    Home Edition, Main News, Page A-1
    National Desk
    61 inches; 2236 words


    By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer

    GAYLORD, Kan. -- Gwen Archut steps cheerfully over the bat droppings that lie thick on the gymnasium floor. The room is dark and icy, crowded with splintery, gray bleachers.

    But thanks to an impulse buy on EBay, this is home.

    Not just this gym -- the entire Gaylord Rural Elementary and High School. Gwen and her husband, Oliver, own 30,000 square feet of leaky classrooms, dented lockers and rust-streaked urinals. And they are ecstatic.

    They stride the gloomy halls, under burned-out bulbs, and remind themselves they own it all: The sixth-grade classroom, which they've filled with firewood. The first-grade cubbies Gwen uses as a closet. The blackboards Oliver scribbles full of business calculations. The girls' locker room, painted lilac, where they wash in the communal shower.

    Never, ever did they dream of buying so much space for $25,000. Their entire house back in Seattle would fit in two classrooms here.

    True, they're out on the prairie now, an hour from the nearest McDonald's, in a town of 97. Gaylord's streets are rutted dirt. There's not much to do on an autumn night beyond hunting skunks. But the Archuts find life fuller here.

    "There's a difference between living and existing," says Oliver, 35, who builds recording equipment. "In Seattle, we were just existing. Here, we can live."

    That same calculation is drawing others to fading towns across the heartland.

    In the past year, at least a dozen communities have turned to EBay to sell schools shuttered for lack of kids. They've attracted tremendous interest from entrepreneurs seeking a bargain and an escape.

    The schools are cheap, generally priced at $1 to $3 a square foot. They're big, too, and some are beautiful -- solid brick with hardwood floors and quaint cupolas. In most small towns, there are no zoning ordinances to limit commercial or industrial activity. And the communities offer a refuge from the anxious anonymity of urban life.

    "Not only do you know your neighbors, but everybody really does drop by for a cup of sugar," said Suzanne Azzarella, 33.

    She and her business partner moved their engine sales business from Phoenix to McCracken, Kan., (population: 210) in May and can't get over how much costs have dropped. They haven't lost a single item to theft. They own three times as much space as they rented in Phoenix, for half the cost. They have so much room, in fact, they're thinking of opening a microbrewery in the elementary school and confining their engine business to the middle school.

    They bought both buildings on EBay for $49,500, astounding the local school district, which had tried for more than a year to give the buildings to charity but found no takers.

    Civic leaders in Paradise, Kan., were equally surprised when an EBay posting for their grade school drew 37,000 hits in just a few weeks. None of the council members in the town of 65 owns a computer, so a local cattle rancher had to sort the bids.

    In Morland, Kan., more than 100 serious inquiries came in for a complex of seven school buildings. They sold for $125,000 to two Florida real estate agents, who plan to turn the property into the Bison America Institute, complete with a buffalo museum. They've already ripped out the lockers to install dioramas of the Old West.

    And in Upham, N.D., Richard and Melisa Michaels are giddy about owning 64,000 square feet of space, even if it's in a wind-whipped town where winter doesn't really arrive until the temperature hits 40 below.

    The Michaelses, who gave up a condo in Hawaii for this, are not exactly sure what they're going to do with the three school buildings they bought for $50,000. A plan to turn the gym into a hunter's lodge, putting sleeping bags on the old wrestling mats, flopped for lack of business. For now, they're making jewelry in the science room.

    Such small-scale enterprise will not save Upham or McCracken or Gaylord.

    Like so many of the farm towns that once anchored the Great Plains, these communities have long since lost their young families -- their futures -- to big cities.

    It gets harder and harder for Gaylord to round up enough children to put on the Angel Choir concert come Christmas. There are just six kids left in town, a few more on surrounding farms. Erin Abbott, a high-school senior, sums up her dreams in five words: "Someplace bigger. With paved streets."

    "I sincerely doubt there will be any town left here in 10 or 15 years," said Jean Gedney, 84, who has lived in town for six decades.

    "All you have to do is look around," said Kaid Dannenberg, 45, whose family runs the local fertilizer plant. "There's nobody here. There's nothing to bring anyone here."

    Or, rather, there wasn't -- until EBay.

    Now, Gwen Archut strides around town in her high-heeled boots, blond hair swinging, so full of energy that locals smile at the mention of her name. Burly, 6-foot-8 Oliver, with his rough German accent and rollicking laugh, has thrown himself into rural life so completely that he butchered his own hog this fall and pickled 95 pounds of sauerkraut.

    Katherine Lehmann, the town clerk, admits she can't quite understand their passion. "We're amazed Gwen and Oliver are even happy here."

    But they are. And that's given Gaylord cautious hope.

    Before the EBay sale, retired teacher Jim Muck, 64, never dared expect a future for Gaylord. Now he finds himself dreaming. If this couple from Seattle likes it here, maybe others will too. Maybe someone will open a grocery. Or a little cafe. Maybe a family will move here, bringing kids who will fidget in the church pews that have too long sat empty.

    "We're not expecting to be a town of 1,000 people," said Muck, who serves on the town council. "All we're looking for is some small progress."

    Muck wasn't expecting even that much when he and a friend came up with the idea of listing the school on EBay in the summer of 2003.

    Vacant for more than a decade, the building had become a liability and an eyesore. The trouble was, the town couldn't afford to tear it down. Demolition would cost more than $100,000 -- almost as much as Gaylord's operating budget for an entire year.

    Then Muck got to talking with Dave Rose, a friend who sold farm equipment on EBay. On a whim, they decided to list the school through Rose's firm, Midwest e-Services. The town council approved the idea and picked a price almost at random: $25,000.

    To their astonishment, the phone began ringing.

    "I was absolutely shocked, to be honest with you," Rose said.

    He soon realized the concept had potential. As word spread about Gaylord's EBay posting, towns in Kansas, Colorado and Oklahoma hired him to list their schools online.

    Rose knew he had to sell more than the school; he had to sell the concept of the prairie to a distant, big-city buyer. So he wrote glowing profiles of each community, touting the good hunting, the scenic vistas, the friendly neighbors.

    "Every place has its positives," he said. "You just have to look a little harder for them sometimes."

    The Archuts needed little convincing.

    Oliver was desperate to get out of Seattle, where rents were so high he couldn't afford the space he needed to run his business. Too stressed to sleep one night, he had come across a TV documentary on the heartland's long decline. The footage of towns filled with vacant buildings spoke to him not of despair, but potential.

    He asked Gwen to find him a Midwest town with room to spare. When she found Gaylord's advertisement on EBay in August 2003, she thought it was a hoax.

    "I called three times to make sure that $25,000 wasn't just the down payment," she says. "I thought I was being bamboozled." When Muck finally convinced her that was the total price, she flew out to take a look.

    Up against the Nebraska border, a good 200 miles northwest of Wichita, Gaylord wasn't much to see. All Main Street had to offer was a bank, a post office, a tiny part-time library and a few teetering, half-rotted buildings. One resident was using several vacant lots as a personal dump, heaping them with old cars and sodden couches.

    The school was a wreck as well; it had shut down in 1990, and no one had maintained it since. The front door was boarded. The blue paint had long ago flaked off. Even the bricks looked dilapidated.

    Inside was worse: The roof leaked. The boiler pipes had ruptured. Little glow-in-the-dark eyes glowered from the lockers, remnants of a long-ago haunted house. Icy air blew in through broken windows.

    To Gwen, it looked wonderful.

    For years, she and Oliver had been making sound equipment for top-40 rock and country bands from their 1,600-square-foot house. Their machinery took up every inch of floor space, the whole backyard and a neighbor's garage. Here at last, they would have space to spread out: the whole school plus nearly four acres of land.

    The Gaylord council received several offers for the school. A businessman from Arizona wanted to use it as a warehouse for plus-size women's clothing. A guy from Texas envisioned it as an antiques mall. But Muck was most taken with the Archuts' proposal.

    "A young couple," he said, "wanting to come to town and build a business."

    He would have given them the school free.

    The Archuts, though, thought they were getting a steal at $25,000. They closed on the property in October 2003 and moved in a few months later. The town used the cash to fix its dilapidated sewer system.

    When he walks through the school these days, Muck nods approvingly. The science lab looks much as it always did, with its scuffed linoleum floor, avocado-and-mustard paint, silver clock forever stuck at 11:50. But it's Oliver's office now. Shipping boxes from customers in Japan and Australia clutter the floor.

    The seventh-grade classroom next door gleams with fresh, white paint. It's now the main production room for the Archuts' company, TAB-Funkenwerk.

    Oliver has moved a bed into the old fourth-grade classroom. Gwen has turned the first-grade room into a den, with a big-screen TV, easy chairs and sticky flypaper dangling from the fluorescent lights to catch the mosquitoes that bedevil them in summer. They cook in the cafeteria, on the industrial-size griddle.

    "It's perfect," Oliver says. "Like camping."

    At first, the luxury of so much space was all that mattered to him. But it didn't take many days in Gaylord before he and Gwen fell in love with the town as well.

    For starters, they suddenly could afford to have fun. The closest movie theater is 14 miles away, but you can buy a ticket and a tub of popcorn for $5.50. Fresh salmon rarely graces a menu out here, but a steak-and-potatoes dinner costs maybe $8. If they ever decide to buy a real house -- and Gwen's pushing for it -- they can get a nice one for $17,000.

    Also, doing business is easier here. When Oliver wanted to hook up his machines in Seattle, he had to first bring in a building inspector and a certified electrician. Here, he just plugs them in. When he needs a forklift, he doesn't have to pay $500 a day to rent one. He borrows from a neighbor.

    In Seattle, the Archuts felt so pressed for time and money, they worked right through most weekends. Out here, they're likely to close shop on a Wednesday afternoon and drive 40 miles to watch a neighbor's daughter play basketball. Every Tuesday, Gwen has coffee with the ladies at the bank. Every Friday, Oliver joins the potluck at the filling station.

    He can't go a week without someone asking when he and Gwen, who is 32, are going to start a family. Oliver says they're not ready yet.

    The next week, he's asked again: "Any progress?"

    He prefers to think of this as cozy, not nosy.

    "It's a different world," Oliver says. "People genuinely care."

    The Archuts have had some hardships in Gaylord. Shortly after moving in last winter, Oliver had emergency open-heart surgery to replace faulty valves. An electrical fire destroyed one of the classrooms. The leaky roof will be expensive to repair, and they've already spent about $30,000 to make the school habitable.

    And there are small, unexpected inconveniences. Oliver never seems to be able to get all 900 light bulbs working at once. Every week or two it seems one of the school's 250 windows breaks. Just sweeping all the hallways takes hours.

    Still, the Archuts burst with optimism. They have hired three neighbors for part-time work; their custodian refurbishes floorboards in a classroom where he once whipped his buddies at checkers. The Archuts are looking to fill three more jobs. Gwen expects to have a payroll of 15 within a year or two.

    Oliver dreams his biggest dreams in the brick-walled auditorium, with the cracked stage floor that creaks alarmingly under his weight. As soon as he renovates the auditorium, he says, he'll invite his musician friends down to Gaylord. He imagines the school as the perfect spot to record an album or prepare for a tour, away from the frenzy of the coasts.

    For now, though, Gwen and Oliver have done Gaylord proud just by calling it home.

    Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  2. #2
    PookyNR is offline 3D VIP 2005, '06, '07, '08, '09, '10, '11, '12, '13, '14
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    I notice Oliver has a new guest fourm over at prosoundweb now. It will be great to hear some of his wisdom.
    Am I the only one without a small type signature?

    Nathan

  3. #3
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    He and his family have been kicking butt to get it all together. We need to support him best we can.

  4. #4
    Sal Vito is offline Gold Club Member (1000+ posts)
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    I really like the guy

    I've spoken with him lots of times...

    He's great

    Guys like him should get good breaks like this

    I wish him all the best
    Sal Vito
    The Man of Sound
    salvito@hotmail.com
    312-409-0176

  5. #5
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    I just ordered one of his V78 Mic pre's. They are a hot item and with a two week backorder Oliver can't crank them out fast enough.
    Good Luck in Kansas !!
    Craig Barnes
    Quail Ridge Mastering
    General Manager KJSM Radio
    Minister of Audio/Broadcast
    Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel
    qrstudio@msn.com
    (3D Audio Inc. VIP Member)

  6. #6
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    Originally posted by Craig Barnes:
    <STRONG>I just ordered one of his V78 Mic pre's. They are a hot item and with a two week backorder Oliver can't crank them out fast enough.
    Good Luck in Kansas !!</STRONG>
    Two weeks? He's catching up. Last time I asked it was still closer to two months. I'm sure you'll love it.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  7. #7
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    Whats the cost on that thing if you don't mind me asking?

    I have a soft spot for the one man bands that know their stuff.

    Think it would work well on the back end of the C800's Sonys?

    I know I dont mention them and actually, I have the "s" class. Probabally the best vocal mic ever made IMHO.


  8. #8
    Sal Vito is offline Gold Club Member (1000+ posts)
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    Originally posted by Bill Roberts, mastering:
    <STRONG>Whats the cost on that thing if you don't mind me asking?

    I have a soft spot for the one man bands that know their stuff.

    Think it would work well on the back end of the C800's Sonys?

    I know I dont mention them and actually, I have the "s" class. Probabally the best vocal mic ever made IMHO.

    </STRONG>
    Dude...

    The mic pre would sound SWEET with that mic!

    Price is $975 for 1 channel of tubey goodness

    2 for $1900
    http://www.mercenary.com/amitav.html

    Here's Oliver's site:
    http://www.tab-funkenwerk.com/
    Sal Vito
    The Man of Sound
    salvito@hotmail.com
    312-409-0176

  9. #9
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    Dude,

    That's one mighty big jpg.

    I think that's at least a few percent larger than life size!
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

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