SHEFFIELD, Mass. - There's a lot of uncertainty in the world today, globally, nationally, locally. Even on a personal level, uncertainty can be nerve-wracking.
Twenty years ago, Dale Webb was doing well. He was newly married, starting a family and had a good job.
"I went to Penn State for mechanical engineering and wound up working in the corporate world, mostly with medical devices," he explained.
As it sometimes does, life hit a sour note and his position was eliminated. That was okay with Dale and his wife, Phyllis. They had a plan. They were going to start a business making ukuleles. It was something neither of them had any idea about.
"Totally out of the blue. Neither one of us could be qualified as musicians," admitted Phyllis.
Phyllis' brother was a musician though and was tired of lugging around his guitar. He suggested that Dale use his engineering know how to make something more portable like a ukulele and Dale got to work.
"He wanted to design everything from scratch, so he created all of his own materials and built the first parts in our toaster oven and our oven at home," explained Phyllis.
His designs were unique and the sound was rich. After showing off some prototypes at a trade show in 1999, orders started pouring in.
"We built the first 10,000 ukes in our basement," noted Phyllis.
They named their business The Magic Fluke and word spread. Musicians from around the world were lining up -- including celebrities like Tony Danza and Bette Midler, who played one of The Magic Fluke's pineapple-shaped ukuleles in her shows in Vegas.
"The market has grown probably 10 times," noted Dale.
After years of obscurity, the ukulele has staged a comeback -- perhaps due to popular music, perhaps due to its compact size or that it's easy to learn to play.
Whatever the reason, ukuleles are no fluke. Sales have rivaled those of guitars in recent years, forcing Dale and Phyllis - now the largest shippers of ukuleles in the United States, out of their basement and into the new Magic Fluke shop in Sheffield, Mass., where they still make everything by hand -- just not in the toaster.
"It was a big leap of faith, but here we are 18 years later and we really believe in what we do," affirmed Phyllis.