736 Robinson Avenue, Hillcrest
The sign outside Ferino's in Hillcrest doesn't mention accordions, but inside the tiny shop a couple dozen of them --some for sale, some in for repair -- rest in cases on the floor. Fred Ferino grew up in Italy and Yugoslavia playing accordion and helping his father repair them. In San Diego since 1978, he's become known as the only source of primo Italian accordions, such as Elio Gabbanelli, and of repairs that often require rare or improvised parts. Walls here are lined with glass jars containing washers, screws, reeds, and other accordion hardware, some of which belonged to his dad.
Ferino speaks five languages, but his English is thickly accented. Once a year, Ferino and his wife make a pilgrimage to Castelfidardo, Italy, where the best accordions are made. He brings back three or four instruments. Some are chromatic-scale models with piano-like keyboards used in polkas, pop, and jazz. Others are diatonic-scale accordions with Native-American detailing and three rows of buttons instead of keys, popular with players of Mexican ranchera music. Ferino recently released a CD of his own music.