Sometime around 1980, Richard Morse, a melodeon- and concertina-playing architect living in rural Vermont, couldn't find anyone to repair one of his recalcitrant boxes. He decided to try his hand at fixing it himself, though he started by practicing on a few of the many beater boxes he had collected over the years. After lots of dogged tinkering, many phone conversations with Hohner's repair department, and visits to a retired accordion repair person he discovered in Boston, he was able to do the repairs he needed and then some.
As his skills increased, he graduated himself to more substantial and complex work. When word got around the free-reed community that someone out in the New England woods was doing good repair work, more players sent their instruments to Rich with requests for everything from tuning up Pokerworks for the Morris season to overhauling vintage Wheatstones.
By 1985 the pressure for box repairs had become so great that he hired a handy friend to help with the work and got a business license to simplify working with parts suppliers and materials manufacturers. Thus officially began the Button Box, a hobby gone wild.
The Button Box's first location change was from the Vermont cabin to a house in Sunderland, Massachusetts, where the fledgling business settled into a spare bedroom. In 1990, newly-hired manager Doug Creighton shepherded the transition to a storefront in downtown Amherst, augmented in 1995 by the renovation of a nearby garage to house our Repair and Fabrication Facility. Commonly known as "the shop," this became the province of Chief Repair Technician Bob Snope.
1999 was a watershed year for us as we started production of our R. Morse & Co. brand concertinas. Less visible was our change from a sole proprietorship to The Button Box, Inc., giving us corporate status, albeit in a small way. We're still friendly, and a machine answers the phone only if we're not here or already talking to someone else.
In 2004 we moved again, this time back to Sunderland, to a building that gives us more space, enables us to have sales/administration and repairs/fabrication under one roof, and has dedicated parking. The new space also affords better access, both from the highway (we're close to I-91) and into the building (we're no longer on the 2nd floor).
Sadly, in March of 2009 Button Box founder Rich Morse succumbed to a recurrence of the melanoma he had lived with since 1995. We feel his loss keenly, but The Button Box continues under the leadership of long-time manager Doug Creighton.