As a teenager, Maple Grove resident Tony Cimperman played acoustic guitar until the day he discovered the percussive, satisfying “thump” of the electric bass. Changing instruments put Cimperman on the path to his current career as a manufacturer and worldwide supplier of high-end, “boutique” basses.
An Iowa native, Cimperman moved to Maple Grove with his parents in 1991. After taking up the bass in high school, he “fell in love with the instrument and wanted to learn more about how they work,” he says. While studying electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota, Cimperman started “tinkering.” In 1999, a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert sparked his interest in Modulus basses; that was the brand played by one of the group’s most visible members: the bass virtuoso known to rock fans as “Flea.” In 2000, Cimperman began selling Modulus and other brands of $2,000-and-up American-made, electric basses online through his father’s company, Cimperman Sales. That year, he also met the national sales manager for Modulus, who also owned an online bass-and amplifier store called Planet Bass. Two years later, Cimperman purchased Planet Bass. In 2008, he opened his brick and mortar Planet Bass store, on 63rd Avenue N. in Maple Grove.
One reason Cimperman was attracted to Modulus is their hand-layered, carbon fiber necks, which make them more consistently resonant than some other basses and more resistant to changes in temperature and humidity. “Basses with wooden necks have ‘dead spots’ which absorb certain higher-resonance frequencies. But carbon fiber necks produce notes which are true and clear, all across the neck,” he explains. They also weigh less than most traditional electric basses while still producing a more consistent tone.
As the name indicates, Planet Bass sells to bass players around the world. “The Internet opened us up to the world,” says Cimperman, who sells several other boutique brands in addition to Modulus.
Several years ago, California-based Modulus filed for bankruptcy, which led to Cimperman’s next big move. In February 2014, he acquired the rights to produce the Modulus line. The Modulus necks and bodies are still fabricated in California by Joe Perman, who has been Modulus’ lead designer and master builder for 30 years. The wiring and other electronic components are installed at Cimperman’s 1,200-square foot manufacturing and showroom facility in Maple Grove. Cimperman completes about four basses per month, and is currently the only Modulus dealer. Through his website, he’s served customers in Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, and beyond.
“Modulus did a lot of things wrong,” Cimperman observes. “The basses have always been amazing, but the company was run poorly by upper-management. The dealer network was pretty weak. No dealer knew their line better than I did.” Since taking over the brand, Cimperman has adjusted prices to cover increases in material costs. Planet Bass provides customers direct access to the brand through its website, helping ensure they are well-served and well-informed.
Cimperman and his wife, Kirstin, are expecting their first child soon. He appreciates Maple Grove as a good place to raise a family, citing its well-developed recreational trail system, abundance of restaurants and shopping opportunities and the short commute to his “office.”
Going forward, Cimperman’s goal as an entrepreneur is “to continue to advance the line and keep jobs here in the U.S. We’ve turned a lot of people on to Modulus.”