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It all began in an enchanted land far, far away… well, not quite; Gryphon Stringed Instruments started in a garage about three blocks away from our current location. But it was a long time ago, way back in the Fall of 1969. The initial focus was on building instruments, and from 1969 to 1973 Gryphon built about 40 steel-string guitars, a few F-style mandolins, and dozens of banjo necks.
From the beginning repair work just seemed to stream in, and by 1972 we were spending more time fixing old guitars than we were building new ones. Once we opened a storefront in 1973, the combination of retail and repair put a quick end to luthiery. Gryphon quickly became the San Francisco Bay Area’s leading source of mandolins, banjos, and both nylon and steel-string acoustic guitars.
We moved from our first shop on El Camino Way to our current location at the corner of Lambert Avenue and Park Boulevard in 1975. The extra space allowed us to invite Carol McComb to join us, and her Folk Guitar Workshops were the beginnings of an extensive calendar of both group and private instruction at Gryphon. For those who live in the South Bay, we’re as much a music school as a retail store. This is reflected in our wide range of instruction books and videos on everything from Leo Kottke to Romanian Folk Violin.
Acoustic guitars, mandolins, and banjos are still the mainstays at Gryphon, as they have been for over 45 years, though our inventory of steel guitars and ukuleles continues to grow as well. In recent years an important part of our growth has been in instruments by very small companies and individual makers, as we continue to keep one foot, or at least several toes, outside the mainstream music industry.
Through all this growth, the constant has been our reputation for being able to provide lots of information about the stuff we carry, and for being able to repair and maintain what we sell. There are still no commissioned sales people at Gryphon, and even when it comes to accessories we emphasize what works, not just what sells.