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In 2012, a feature in an American Express's Departures magazine amplified ReAcoustic's antique speaker sales from a local audience to worldwide attention.

"I could not have asked for a better target market," said Ryan Boese, ReAcoustic founder and craftsman. "These are all top American Express card holders from all over the country and all over the world. I think I ended up getting orders from over 30 different countries, and I had a waitlist in the hundreds waiting for me to find these antiques,"

The explosion of online purchases allowed Boese to refashion gramophones and phonographs into usable art full-time less than a year after he began tinkering with ideas and broken instruments in his garage. The artist explained the phonographs he repurposes were made during a narrow band of decades around 1900 before being eclipsed by the next generation gramophones and tube radio horns.

Horned speakers went out of vogue in the 1930s and are now in sparse supply, so Boese has relied on a dense web of antique dealers across the country, to sustain his inventory, which is also diversified with brass instruments.

"Everything from as small as a trumpet or a cornet to as big as a sousaphone, I've turned into a speaker at this point," he said.

In the past, the two-time Artisphere exhibitor's greatest challenge was keeping up with customer demands. Now, as ReAcoustic's income from 20 to 25 art shows per year dry up due to cancellations, Boese is selling untouched antiques rather than refurbishing them.

"You could never have anticipated when we first heard that there was some illness in China, that all of my art shows were going to be shut-down and my business would come to a standstill," he said, adding that ReAcoustics just falls short of all the federal funding opportunities he's explored for one reason or another.

Despite its online boom a decade ago, about 90% of ReAcoustic's revenue stems from in-person purchases. Boese knows few people are purchasing art, utilitarian or not, when unemployment is at an all-time high. Almost all of Boese's...

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