Handcrafting the World's Finest Guitars for Over 90 Years
The 1st Generation: Two Orphans-Two Families-One Business
Porfirio Delgado-Flores (1913-2000) and Candelario Delgado-Flores (1910-1983) were brothers and orphans born in Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico. Circumstances dictated that they would be raised apart by two different families. Porfirio was adopted by his Aunt who immediately put him to work as a laborer. Candelario was adopted by a family with some means affording him a formal education. Porfirio's trade was that of a carpenter but was exposed to music as a child learning to dabble in the violin. Candelario was a businessman, had a passion for the guitar, and always kept the big picture in mind.
The Competitor and the Visionary
Every so often, Porfirio's carpenter friends would have a competition to see who could build the most impressive item made from wood. Candelario was aware of these competitions and the visionary side of him convinced Porfirio to make a guitar. He had noticed that there were not that many luthiers (guitar builders) and perhaps this could lead to an opportunity. Candelario was right! Once he presented his guitar to the community, demand began to rise. However, they could only sell a guitar for 3 pesos and their cost to build one was 5! They needed more demand and experience in order to support this fledgling idea. So they created two musical groups: Los Hermanos Candelas and Son Torreon. In Son Torreon, they refined their craft by building and selling instruments to members of their group. Candelario knew the recipe for success was now there and convinced Porfirio to open the first shop in Juarez Mexico 1928.
Growth and Artists
The shops reputation grew from word of mouth. Eventually a second shop opened in Tijuana which led to opportunities to work with some of Mexico's greatest artists: Mario Moreno "Cantinflas", Miguel Aceves Mejia, Marcello Chavez, "TinTan", Hermanos Villa, Los Tres Cahelleros (who played in various Walt Disney films), Trio Urquiza, Pepe Gamboa (a custom three-neck guitar) and Eduardo Ruiz (who played lead for Desi Arnaz). Uncle Candelas enjoyed handcrafting guitars but his chief contribution was managing business operations of both stores. Porfirio was content to stay in Torreon building guitars that would supply both stores.
An unlikely trade
The business did so well in Tijuana that they ventured north at a friend’s request to display their products in Los Angeles. Unbeknownst to Porfirio, Candelario had arranged not to sell the guitars but to barter them in exchange for television sets. Although there was inherent risk involved in the transaction, the upside was that the brothers now had their guitars displayed in a large U.S. market. Candelas knew that televisions were in great demand in Mexico and that they would recoup their money and maybe more. The risk paid off. The brothers sold the guitars and after a few short months, the electronics retailer made an order for more guitars. The plan worked. The brothers had arrived to America.
New Beginnings and the 2nd Generation
In 1947 the next Candelas store opened on Cesar Chavez Ave (formerly Brooklyn Ave) in the Boyle Heights District of Los Angeles. It was a hit and with the rise in popularity of the Classical Guitar and Mariachi music, a 3rd shop was opened on Sunset Blvd. With four stores in two countries, the brothers were stretched thin. By 1967 just having left the army, Porfirios son Candelario (named after his uncle), joined the family business.
Candelario possessed the skills of both his father and uncle, had skills for running a business, played guitar and enjoyed building. He was dedicated enough to build on the legacy that the two founders created: building handcrafted quality guitars instead of giving in to the popular temptation of machine-built models. The shops were booming and a fifth store was added in Hollywood. Like the experience in Tijuana, more artists found the shop including: Jose Feliciano, Arlo Guthrie and Hoyt Axton as well as the most famous Mariachi bands of the time.
Father time and restructuring
By the 70s the shop and brothers would hit some set backs. The brothers now in their 60s began experiencing health problems. Candelario battled cancer and would soon pass. The fifth shop was poorly situated which led to its closure. With the loss of one of the founding brothers, management of the stores in Mexico was not possible and they closed as well. Even Porfirios own son Candelario began battling his own health problems as well. Things had to slow down. Ultimately, consolidation proved to be a sound business decision because production and repairs became centralized allowing for a more controlled cost structure. The only store that remained at this point was on Cesar Chavez Ave.
The Third Generation-A father and three children
Candelario and Porfirio continued building. Health ever on their mind and with more past than future ahead of them, how would Candelas move forward? Candelario had three children. His daughter gravitated toward academia which he supported whole heartedly. Tomas, his oldest son, came to work for his father at 19 so he could take a vacation. Manuel, his youngest, was considering a career path in law enforcement. Like in most traditional families, the eldest son is groomed to take on the weight of a family business. This in many ways makes the work of the youngest son different and their own.
Tomas took over Candelas after the passing of his father, becoming its 3rd generation luthier. Nostalgic for the guitar he built when he was 11, Manuel came to work for Tomas and apprenticed for five years. Looking to stand on his own, Manuel decided to move on and create his own path. Each guitar handmade by Tomas continues the family tradition of using the finest woods and highest construction standards. This allows him to produce standard or custom instruments that are rich in tone, beauty, and soul. To learn more about Tomas Delgado and Candelas in the present day, please click here or above on Tomas Delgado.
Since 1928, Candelas has produced handcrafted instruments for top musicians: Andres Segovia, Celedonio Romero, Pepe Romero, Jose Feliciano, Jackson Browne, Charo, Los Lobos, Mariachi Sol de Mexico, Mariachi Cobre, Quetzal, Grupo Exterminador, Eric Wilson (Sublime), Ozomatli, Ray Sandoval, Adam del Monte, and Flor de Toloache to name a few. In addition, Tomas is also sought for his skill in restoring vintage and rare acoustic instruments. This includes Martins, classical guitars (Rodriguez, Santos, Conde Hermanos), and very delicate instruments that can be up to 200 years old!
Candelas Guitars has been honored by having one of its guitars preserved and displayed at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., been featured in countless TV segments, and twice featured in Huell Hauser's California Gold.