Pete Buncher anticipated moving his guitar shop, Driftwood Music, to a new location in St. Charles when the unthinkable happened.
Heavy rain across the St. Louis area in late July overflowed the creek behind the new building, which took on about two feet of water. As a small business owner, the work of recovery and moving inventory, which includes custom-made and vintage guitars, from the old location has been nothing short of a nightmare.
Buncher saw it as an opportunity to witness to customers and employees that it’s God who’s really in charge.
“I’m not sure what each day from here will bring, but I do know who brings each day and it is a God who loves me, is rich in mercy, and keeps His promises and He will take care of us,” Buncher shared in a Facebook post a few days after the flooding. “God has not promised me a guitar shop. He has promised me heaven if I choose to live in Him. Those of you who know me well know that I work hard to live that choice every day. I am very fortunate that the only things we lost were just things and a structure that was not my home and can be rebuilt.”
Pope Francis has often spoken about the importance of small businesses, which he said are invested in the common good. Stores, workshops or cleaning businesses aren’t ranked among the world’s richest and most powerful. Yet despite the challenges that come with being a small business owner, “they create jobs, fulfilling their social responsibility,” Pope Francis said. “With courage, with effort, with sacrifice, they invest in life, creating well-being, opportunities and work.”
Speaking to a group of French entrepreneurs in January, Pope Francis said that living the Gospel through their work can be demanding, especially with a competitive professional world.
“However, I invite you to keep your eyes on Jesus Christ, with your life of prayer and the offering of your daily work,” he said. He also asked them to invoke the Holy Spirit in their choices, adding that the Church needs their witness.
“The search for the common good is a matter of concern for you, an ideal, in the context of your professional responsibilities,” the pope said.
Driftwood Music and
Pete Buncher opened Driftwood Music in St. Charles in 2018, but his passion for music began in childhood. He grew up in a musical family and received his first acoustic guitar when he was about 11 years old. He eventually added an electric guitar.
“I was the type of guy if I was going to use something, I wanted to know how it worked,” Buncher said. “When I got my first electric guitar, I took every screw off of that thing, cut all the wires, took it all apart. I just wanted to know how it worked. And then I got it all back together.”
Buncher also used to design guitars as an adolescent, sketching them in pencil on graphing paper. By high school, he became involved in youth ministry at Assumption Parish in south St. Louis County, assisting with praise and worship music.
A college friend invited him to stay in Nashville one summer. Buncher discovered that guitar-maker Gibson had headquarters there and applied for a job. In less than a year, he rose through the ranks to the company’s pro shop, doing custom design and construction.
Buncher described his Catholic faith as strong. The sex, drugs and rock-and-roll lifestyle often espoused within the secular music industry was evident, and speaking frankly, he said it made him uncomfortable.
“I had some moral issues,” he said. “My faith was very strong at that time … I was the guy with the stereo at the bench rocking out with Matt Maher,” he said. In prayer, God kept asking him: “‘Am I a priority?’ I said, ‘Yes, Lord you are a priority.’”
A scheduling conflict arose at work, a request for time off that he made well in advance. Buncher’s supervisor wouldn’t let him off the hook. He recalled his boss saying: “‘Pete, you need to get your priorities straight.’ It was like God was preparing me for this: ‘Am I a priority?’”
Buncher left his job in Nashville, returning to Assumption Parish first as a full-time youth minister, and now as a part-time music minister. He helped with the music ministry at St. Joseph in Imperial. In 2018, he opened Driftwood Music, repairing and selling primarily vintage guitars. Later that year, he sold his first custom, handmade guitar, under a new entity, Buncher Guitars.
Each instrument is built with prayer. He’s intentional about the elements he incorporates into the design of each piece. For example, the 12 braces on the inside of the body are representative of the 12 apostles. The binding around the edges of the guitar is made with four layers, representing the four Gospels. The Holy Family headstock features an outline of Jesus’ Sacred Heart, Mary’s Immaculate Heart and a lily representing St. Joseph.
“It’s a reminder to put the Holy Family at the head of all that I do,” Buncher said.
The move to a new location on Boone’s Lick Road near Main Street St. Charles is in progress. There is a smaller building on the property that was left unscathed from the flooding, and Buncher hopes to be temporarily operating there sometime in October.
About a month before the flood, Buncher said God gave him this prayer: “I don’t know what the day will bring, but I know who brings the day. It’s a Lord who loves me, is rich in mercy and keeps His promises.”
There are a lot of unknowns for a business owner who has to deal with a disaster. There’s the process of recovery and dealing with insurance, securing inventory, making sure the employees are taken care of (he has four) and communicating with customers.
“Because of who God made me to be, and because I know who God is, I have approached this with a certain amount of joy — which can be quite confusing for some people. I say as long as none of that changes, I know where I’m headed.”
The Golden Rule
John Schaffer’s father, John, had the true spirit of an entrepreneur. He was the kind of guy who drove around looking for the next business opportunity. In the late 1970s, an old brick building on Sutton Avenue in Maplewood caught his eye, and he stopped by to introduce himself to the owner.
The gentleman there had a business making mattresses, but he was struggling to pay rent. Schaffer offered to buy the business from him. He didn’t have the experience, but he was determined to find a way.
More than 40 years later, Maplewood Mattress continues its mission of producing custom-made mattresses, with most materials sourced from within Missouri. John Schaffer took over the business in 1992 after his father died suddenly at 56.
Describing himself as your “average Catholic,” Schaffer’s faith is most evident in how he believes customers should be treated.
“Some of the most influential people in my life, other than my parents, one was a nun and two were lay teachers at a Catholic school, and it was always about ethics,” he said. “You don’t take advantage of anyone, much less older people. That happens here every day. We have older people that we go flip their mattresses for them.”
There are other important aspects to the work of a business owner, Schaffer said. Be fair in pricing. Create quality products. Support other locally owned businesses in sourcing materials. He also doesn’t believe in creating what he described as “fake sales” to get a customer in the door.
“When you have to give up (being with) your family on Fourth of July or Memorial Day or Labor Day to save money on a mattress … If you can save money on Monday, why not on Tuesday?”
Schaffer splits his time attending Mass at several south St. Louis parishes and near his farm outside Farmington. He said he isn’t the kind of person who will preach loudly about his faith; rather it’s about showing through example. “I travel a lot, but I do not miss church,” he said. “What I love about the Mass is that I can go anywhere and fit right in. It gets me through another week.”
Connection through relationships
God has pulled Denise Trampier through some of the most difficult times of her life. A travel agent for nearly 50 years, she experienced the loss of her husband, Bob, in 2003. He was 51 years old. Her employer at the time, Aero Travel, was there for her during her grief.
“God showed me the amount of tears I needed to cry in order to heal,” she said. “There were people He placed in my life to help me.”
Trampier retired in 2018, but she couldn’t shake the travel bug. The following year, she started Wayfarer Journeys, charting her own course and helping clients book the trips of their dreams. She works with a host agency based in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, but is considered an independent travel agent.
Just as her business had gained momentum, all of it came to a halt in 2020 because of the pandemic. “It wasn’t just bad, it was devastating,” said Trampier, who attends St. John the Baptist Parish in St. Louis. “I worked harder than I ever worked before and I got nothing. All I got were cancellations and fear. People were paralyzed. All the joy was gone, and there wasn’t anything I could do, but to continue to unbook all those trips, and be the bearer of bad news.”
Trampier began to see some recovery in 2021, and she credited God with pushing her through the hurdles. “He doesn’t make a concrete promise that you’re going to be successful or you’re going to make a lot of money,” she said. “He doesn’t work that way. I just knew that things were going to be OK, no matter what happens. He has my back. And if He has my back, then I can have other people’s backs.”
Through the relationships she has built with clients, Trampier said she has been able to share glimpses of her Catholic faith. Ongoing conversion is the key to living life according to God’s will.
“I always ask for conversion … not just for myself but for others,” she said. “Sometimes I get those opportunities with my job, and it’s great. It’s great when I can evangelize with my job. I am not shy about it. People know who I am. I enjoy sharing my faith with other people.”