Banjo maker thrives in East County

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SPRING VALLEY, Calif. – As other states try to lure San Diego businesses with cheaper land and lower taxes, one growing company said it’s staying put.

San Diego State alum Greg Deering, who loved the banjo since he was a boy, started his Deering Banjos company 38 years ago after building instruments in a class.

The Deerings said other states are trying to lure them away from San Diego, but they’ve crunched the numbers and they wouldn’t save that much money by relocating.

“It’s home so that’s a pretty compelling reason [to stay],” Deering said.

He and his wife Janet have watched it grow from a dream to a 42 employee company that brings in more than $4 million in sales.

Deering Banjos are used by artists like Mumford and Sons, Taylor Swift, the Dixie Chicks, The Avett Brothers and Keith Urban.

“It’s the sound of freedom, it’s the sound of America, it’s the sound of our heritage,” Deering said.

If it’s a banjo, chances are it’s a Deering and it’s made in the Spring Valley factory.  They make professional grade instruments that range from about $500-$30,000.

“It’s the best value of any banjo made in the United States,” Deering said. “It’s more banjo for the money, more than any of our competition makes.”

The harmony between hand craftsmanship and automated machines is the real secret for their success.

They make about 175 banjos a week and with three to 20 hours man-hours going into each one they have as much personality as the family that makes them.

“Greg designs the banjos and designs the equipment to make the Banjos,” Janet Deering said. “I’m the right-hand person who handles the money, the marketing and the sales.”