The Magic Fluke
Can you guess which BerkShares business owes its existence to a fluke at a flea market? Phyllis Webb says The Magic Fluke Company would never have happened if her brother—a guitar player in the music industry—had not found a vintage ukulele at an L.A. flea market and realized “Gee, I could do with four strings what I’ve been doing all my life with six.” After this epiphany, he challenged Phyllis’ husband Dale, an engineer, to make a ukulele. Within a few weeks, Dale had left his job in the corporate world and started redesigning the ukulele; Dale’s prototypes were hand-molded and baked in the family toaster oven.
Dale’s first two models of ukulele, named the Fluke and the Flea, are made with necks, soundboards, and fingerboards of wood, and injection-molded plastic backs. As Phyllis says, “they look different, they have a rich, bright sound, and they have personality.” Plus, they are easy to transport. The Flukes and the Fleas are now iconic, and have attracted celebrity fans ranging from Bette Midler to rising Brazilian pop star Tiago Iorc. There are now 55,000 Magic Fluke instruments all over the world.
After building their first 40,000 ukuleles in New Hartford, CT, The Magic Fluke Co. moved operations to a post and beam building on Route 7 in Sheffield. Says Phyllis, “we’ve been welcomed by everybody. Here in Sheffield, we make the most ukuleles of any U.S.A.-based ukulele manufacturers. Local people took ownership of that, and that was so exciting for us.”
The Webbs are committed to supporting other local businesses, and “BerkShares speaks right to that—when you’re spending BerkShares you’re creating a relationship. It’s saying, ‘I support what you’re doing, and I’m going to keep coming back.’” For Phyllis, using BerkShares represents a commitment to her community.
Since moving to Sheffield, Dale and Phyllis have been sourcing more and more local materials. They are already doing business with companies in Norfolk, CT and Sheffield, MA. Phyllis is excited to announce that for their new instrument—a violin to be marketed to students and serious violin players alike—the soundboard will most likely be made in Egremont and the injection-molded parts will be made at Mold Master in Pittsfield. Whoever suggests the catchiest name for this new instrument will get a violin as a prize.
The “third wave” of ukulele popularity has definitely broken over the Berkshires since the arrival of the Magic Fluke Co. There are free ukulele classes at Berkshire South Community Center with Rob Sanzone, and in Sheffield you can borrow a ukulele from the public library. On September 1st, “World class musician” James Hill, who grew up playing the ukulele in British Columbia, is coming to Sheffield’s Dewey Hall. He will be putting on a workshop in the afternoon and playing a concert at 7:30 pm. Call the Magic Fluke for details.
The Magic Fluke Co. has their entire line of ukuleles, along with ukulele books written by Phyllis’ brother “Jumpin’ Jim” Beloff, for sale in the shop, only a few steps from where the instruments are assembled. Here you can come in “with BerkShares in hand” and purchase or custom order any of their instruments, or even take a look at the seconds, which are sold at a discount and available only in the shop. “Or you can come in to just say hello and see an interesting ukulele shop in action.”
The Magic Fluke, Co. LLC
292 S. Main Street, Sheffield, MA