Dogwood Banjo Co. builds banjos with artistry

Submitted photo

When Mike Chew moved to Windom, the house came with a tiny shop, with a workbench and peg board.

“I’m going to set this up, and see what I can do,” he said he thought at the time. “Next thing you know, I’m a banjo builder.”

BanjoChew previously worked in sales for the St. Paul coffee roaster True Stone, and he transitioned into building banjos full-time last fall.

He named the business for the flowering Dogwood tree common to his Virginia hometown.

“They’re the first thing to bloom,” he said. “Whenever I see them, it just feels kind of homey.”

He can restore old banjos, but much of his work is handmade from scratch with woods like walnut, maple, wenge, cocobolo and bubinga.

“I’m really kind of a wood junkie,” he said.

He makes banjos that cater to each buyer’s desired tonal quality, and he includes custom inlays. He makes four or five banjos per month and sells them at retailers including The Podium on Minnehaha Avenue.

“Everything has been sold at the end of every month,” he said. “I am outrageously grateful. [This] is a dream job for me.”

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