In a year when internationally known was finally digging out from near-financial ruin during the recession and the fallout from a federal wood-smuggling investigation last fall, now comes the biggest blow of all.
In less than three weeks, Ribbecke, 59, must raise at least $100,000 or risk losing his five-acre Healdsburg home, custom guitar shop, music performance venue and the future site of a planned master-level, world-class stringed instrument teaching center.
"It was always my intention to buy this place -- but now there's no time left," said Ribbecke, an original co-founder of the , an advisory board member of the and a long-time community music and guitar-making teacher for troubled youth. "The timetable is so short."
Ribbecke said Monday he was "humbled" by having to reach out to the public after being notified that his property, which he has leased with his family for the last 12 years, is being placed on the market in March unless he buys it first.
"I'm not used to asking for help," said Ribbecke, whose work with troubled youth has caught the attention of media outlets around the globe including "Oprah," "Extreme Makeover," and a British TV network that will air segments on his work this summer.
"This is kind of like a three-dimensional chess game," he said. "It's very stressful."
Ribbecke's landlords are relocating to Grass Valley and need the cash to pay for their new home, Ribbecke said. He said he needs to put down about a third of the asking price of $675,000 -- or more than $200,000 -- to secure the property and to expand the barn-shop into space for the school.
Ribbecke said he has about $100,000 saved, but is seeking help from an equity partner, individual donors or other contributors to secure the purchase.
Anyone interested in helping or investing in the purchase is urged to contact Ribbecke at email@example.com.
"I need to find a way to stay here," he said. If not, he said, it could take a year or more to find a new place to stay where he could move his shop and still have a space for the stringed instrument-making teaching center.
Legendary Healdsburg bass player Bobby Vega, who has played with Santana, Etta James, Joan Baez, Tower of Power -- among many others -- said it would be "very sad" if Ribbecke lost his ability to create world-class guitars.
Vega said he owns three Ribbecke guitars -- including the "Bobby Vega bass,"-- and has a fourth on order.
"A Ribbecke guitar is a great guitar of the kind that is unattainable," Vega said. "His guitars start where the great ones leave off."
He said a Ribbecke guitar "haa a voice" that picks up the soul and spirit of the person playing it.
"There's something about it," Vega said. "It's almost like a sailboat -- you look at it, it's peaceful, but if you know what to with it, you can go almost anywhere."
Ribbecke, meanwhile, pointed to his current custom guitar shop, a reddish-brown barn filled with tools, parts and populated by staff luthiers Maegen Wells and and Stuart Day.
Ribbecke said he holds four to five "house concerts" a year in the rolling field behind the barn-shop, which has space for parking and seating for dozens of people.
"This is a stopover that most of the jazz greats of the world know about," he said. ""There are about five people in the world who are at the level I'm talking about."
Those are the jazz masters he would bring to the new school to teach guitar, cello or other stringed instruments and guitar-making, Ribbecke said.
"That's the contribution I want to make for the balance of my career," Ribbecke said of the master-level music school.
"My generation of guitar-makers are getting older," he added. "It has been the greatest era of 25 years of American instrument-making, and I want to bring that talent here."
In addition to the Healdsburg property, where Ribbecke and a small staff of elite luthier apprentices make custom guitars that sell for $15,000 to $45,000 each and which can take up to five years to order, Ribbecke has a guitar production shop in Windsor.
The Windsor facility employs five mostly local guitar makers -- including some formerly troubled youth who received healing and a new lease on life through music, Ribbecke said.
Ribbecke, who invented and holds the patent for a special "top" on his guitars (the "halfling') that creates a richer sound, said the Windsor company's sales have doubled in 2010 and again in 2011 after a serious down year of 2009 -- when things were so bad that he gave each employee ownership in the company to keep things going.
"We should be back in the black with about $500,000 in sales at the end of this year," Ribbecke said.
About five years ago, Oprah Winfrey got wind of his work with at-risk youth through watching movie trailers made by a Sonoma County film writer and an editor.
"Oprah said, 'You're plucking roses out of the desert and saving kid's lives,'" Ribbecke recalled. "'You should be on TV.'"
Oprah hooked Ribbecke up with Emmy-award-winning "Extreme Makeover" producer Denise Cramsey. Cramsey was passionate about producing a show on Ribbecke's work.
However, Cramsey died suddenly at age 41 in November 2010 after suffering a brain aneurysm -- and before the show could be produced.
"I'm not a friggin' saint," said Ribbecke, who went to Jesuit high school where he grew up in his native Brooklyn, New York. "But there's a certain magic to instruments that if you get people to put all their soul into an instrument, there's a lot of mojo in the instrument."
More details on Ribbecke's work are posted online at www.fretboardjournal.com.