Gary Kramer: Living Large Yesterday & Today

An Article Published in Living Lavishly Magazine, February 2018 –

The Kramers Discover California’s Central Coast Wine Country

Overlooking valleys of vineyards and olive groves The Gables at the Rockin’ K majestically rests — pondering the bountiful agricultural regions of Paso Robles and San Miguel in San Luis Obispo County. In 2009 Gary and Laura Kramer traded a hectic lifestyle in Southern California for new beginnings—repurposing their priorities in the heart of California’s Central Coast Wine Country.


They would spend a year living onsite in a motorhome remodeling their 5,500 sq.ft. homestead primed with “good bones” waiting for for a loving touch. One of Gary’s first projects was intended as decorative landscaping.

Leading up to a welcoming circular drive and southern-style veranda porch complete with Amish-styled rocking chairs, he planted Syrah grape vines in the shape of a heart for Laura, his wife, sweetheart and business partner. He would later admit he stumbled into selecting the perfect acreage with optimum sunlight to ultimately produce exquisite Syrah wine that would become the first vintage and catalyst for establishing the Gary Kramer Guitar Cellars Tasting Room and Guitar Museum at 825 Riverside Avenue in Paso Robles.


But in the Beginning….

First one needs to understand the Gary Kramer backstory—the twists and turns of his amazing entrepreneurial career. In the 1970s he was making good money selling cars when he recognized the company’s lead mechanic had engineered an all-aluminum guitar neck that could be revolutionary in the rock ‘n roll music industry. Kramer bankrolled a start-up guitar manufacturing company, Travis Bean Guitars. Groups like the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead ordered instantly, but production could not keep up. One frustrated dealer awaiting shipment was Bernie Gracin, owner of New York City’s Gracin’s & Towne Music. Ultimately, Kramer would leave the Bean company and collaborate with Gracin to develop a new guitar and partnership. It too struggled at first. Then a break-through — an endorsement from Eddie Van Halen launched Kramer Guitars popularity internationally.


Before Kramer Guitar’s popularity, Kramer was already seeking his next career. He moved to Marina del Rey in 1977 and got his real estate license just in time to cash in on the Southern California housing boom.

“The real estate lifestyle found me smoking too many cigarettes, drinking too many cups of coffee, and doing other things that you shouldn’t do. I just got burned out.”

Kramer walked away from the business that made him rich. He spent two months reconnecting with himself in Italy, his birthplace, and visiting with his mother in Naples. When he returned, “I had no game plan for what I wanted to do next. I had money and time, but I had no game plan.”

It wasn’t long before he discovered his next big idea: Marina Packing, which ships oversees large items like furniture and fine art. Today the company generates more than $3.5 million annually.

“Not bad for a guy whose friends said I was nuts for going into the packing and shipping business!” Kramer said.

As both companies expanded in the 1980s, mismanagement sent the guitar company into bankruptcy. It would sell to Gibson and Kramer’s royalties stopped.

But he stayed in touch with friends in the industry by attending Kramer Conventions where Kramer guitar enthusiasts would gather once a year and share music, stories, and guitars. “As I walked around looking at all the old Kramer guitars, I realized that there hadn’t been any real change in guitars in 30 years. And I thought everything else changes so why not guitars?”

Itching to create another guitar company, he met an over-the-top Kramer Guitar fan, Leo Scala, a Russian immigrant and “…the most creative luther — that’s one who repairs string instruments — I have ever met.” They partnered to manufacture Scala’s ergonomically correct and futuristic-looking Delta Wing guitar and called the company Gary Kramer Guitars. But after four years, Kramer was done and ready to live a new life in San Luis Obispo County. He sold the company to Scala in 2009 for a mere dollar.

“I had achieved everything I envisioned in the world of guitar building and decided to retire.”

The Road to Living Lavishly in San Miguel 

What Gary and Laura Kramer have created on their hilltop oasis in San Miguel is dazzling—and like his serendipitous career path, it comes with its own metamorphic story. Once committed to leaving the hustle of SoCal they found their dream property in San Miguel. For a year, they lived in a motor home they purchased to travel the USA while remodeling their dream home. At the same time they have ultimately planted more than 4,000 decorative, fruit and olive trees and untold acres of vines producing Syrah, Cabernet, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Laura’s latest tasting room favorite, Alicante Bouschet.

Then the property adjacent to them was placed on the market. Protective of their privacy and view-shed, they purchased it and decided to convert the original home-site to an in-demand vacation rental, The Gables at the Rockin’ K ( The rental sleeps 10 with 5 bedrooms and 3.5 baths, offers an infinity pool and outdoor barbecue area, gourmand’s kitchen, and party-hearty game room with a pool table, wet-bar and it is all accented with classic Kramer guitars. An attached “bunkhouse“ overlooking the pool offers more living space for guests.


Kramer Gives Up Some Toys for Laura’s Next Big Idea. 

Gary has always loved to collect unique vehicles. His favorites were housed in a Paso Robles warehouse until the garage in San Miguel offered space that vacationers didn’t need. He downsized to five: his favorite Bentley, his prized ‘69 Camaro with leather interior, his 606HP Corvette Calloway with twin turbos, his 1915 Ford Hack, and his all-terrain customized Bronco-mobile, the one he uses most to check the readiness of vines and brix and Castelvetrano Olives.


It was Laura’s turn for a big idea. With a leased up empty warehouse in Paso Robles, she knew there was a marketplace need for a commercial kitchen that Farmer’s market vendors and cottage industry foodies would love to use. The space was converted to industry standards and instantly booked up 24/7.


Meanwhile, the original Syrah vines produced 75 cases of full-body grapes. With sage advice, the couple tested their luck at winemaking, which was an instant hit. Additionally, Gary Kramer Guitars’ success had created a need to display three evolutions of an iconic guitar produced featuring Gary Kramer’s name and financial backing.

In 2016 they converted the commercial kitchen space into Gary Kramer Guitar Cellars. Laura manages the tasting room sales and food offerings. She’s also been known to sell a Gary Kramer collectible guitar. Someday they plan to schedule wine club pick-up parties at the Gables at Rockin’ K and invite musicians they’ve met over the years to come jam for a weekend. What a bonus that will be for their new wine club friends.


Indeed, Gary and Laura Kramer have found their sweet-spot – loving what they do each day while snuggling into another lifetime.  When asked how did you and Laura meet? With a faraway gaze and a smile, Gary will answer, “She found me.”


Thus, the story continues…



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