Greer Amps' Nick Greer and Chase Garrett pose with their award-winning pedal.
Last month, an Athens-based guitar pedal and amplifier business won the Best in Show award at the National Association of Music Merchants, or NAMM—the largest gear trade show in the world. Greer Amps, run by local Nick Greer, beat out over 7,000 other vendors—including major competitors such as Fender, Marshall and Gibson—with his company’s Soma ’63 Vintage Preamp. The pedal was designed to recreate the sound of the 1963 brown Fender Concert amplifier.
Greer started making pedals when he was 15. Pedals he had bought kept breaking, and instead of paying to get them fixed, he decided to build his own, so if something broke, he could fix it himself. He built his first few pedals for friends on a pool table in his parents’ basement. From there, his business grew into a thriving manufacturer of state-of-the-art boutique gear.
Greer moved to Athens to attend the University of Georgia while running his business on the side. After Miranda Lambert’s guitarist played through one of Greer’s amps on a Country Music Association Awards broadcast, an academic advising appointment went differently than expected. Instead of telling him which classes he should take, Greer says his advisor told him that, though his grades were good, he should consider pursuing his business without the distraction of school. Greer took the advice, withdrew from UGA and began to run Greer Amps full-time.
“I’m pretty sure I was the first student who was doing well who was advised to leave,” Greer says. “All I wanted was to focus on the business, anyway. I was working constantly to get all the orders done.”
Despite the growth since then, Greer’s process has remained the same. All his products are still handmade with the help of four others on his team—though instead of hand-painting each letter and waiting days for products to dry, Greer can now invest in the equipment and tools he needs to keep up with increased demand.
Since his college years, Greer Amps has seen growth margins that Greer never anticipated. In the past year alone, he says, the company experienced over 50 percent output growth. For perspective, according to Sayer Payne, the owner of MAS Distro, through which Greer distributes its products, most companies are advised to cap yearly growth at around 25 percent, as it becomes difficult to keep up.
“Honestly, I just focus on running Greer and spending time with my wife as much as I can,” Greer says. “That’s all I really have time to do.”
Payne says Greer’s simple approach is what draws people to his products. “Greer Amps is just a group of regular people working really hard to create something special,” Payne says. “It’s personal, and that’s part of what draws people to them.”
The list of musicians who use Greer amplifiers and pedals has expanded to include names Greer never thought would hear about a small company in Athens. Fans of his gear transcend genre, including big names such as Jason Isbell, Modest Mouse, Walk the Moon and more.
Greer says he can’t believe so many people choose his products, especially when they have huge brands such as Fender and Marshall to choose from. “There are these gigantic companies out there, and it’s crazy whenever people choose us,” Greer says. “If I can just keep making good products and giving people decent jobs, I’ll be happy no matter who uses us.”
For Greer, the goal is simple: to keep making quality products for those who want them. He says he wants to continue to grow his company without sacrificing its down-to-earth nature.
“We’re a small company in Athens that’s doing big things,” Greer says. “It sounds corny, but it’s true.”