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Profile—At 75, B.W. ‘Stoney’ Stone has forged a legacy in the El Cajon business community



They Call Him ‘Mr. East County’


At 75, B.W. ‘Stoney’ Stone Has Forged a Legacy in the El Cajon Business Community

When B.W. “Stoney” Stone retired from the just-acquired Valle de Oro Bank in 1999, he quickly found out retirement wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

“The silence was deafening when I would sit around the house,” says Stone, 75. “I took about three months of it, then I heard Cuyamaca Bank was looking for a business development officer.”

Stone, a former first vice president at Valle de Oro Bank and board member of American Valley Bank, now spends 40 hours a week looking for businesses that might want to switch to Cuyamaca Bank.

He still finds time to be an active promoter of charity fund-raising drives, such as the East County Toy Drive, which is put on each holiday season.

Stone, who was born in 1925 in Mesa, Ariz., moved with his parents as a child to the San Diego area, graduating in 1942 from Sweetwater Union High School in National City.

He then joined the Army Air Corps as a radar technician. While he was stationed at air bases in Amarillo, Texas, Madison, Wis., and Boca Raton, Fla., he dreamed of returning to civilian life and opening his own grocery store like the one he worked at in high school.

When he was discharged at the end of World War II, Stone returned to National City and opened a produce market. He moved to El Cajon, then a community of less than 9,000 people, in 1953, opening a produce market at Magnolia and Washington avenues.

Rock ‘n’ Roll

However, it was to be when he built a new grocery store on Jamacha Road in east El Cajon several years later that his skill as an all-around promoter became known. He called the new grocery Stoney’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Market.

“My oldest daughter, Michelle, and my niece came up with the name,” Stone recalls. “I was told it was the most popular name in the phone book by phone company officials.”

Stone did more than sell food at the location. He brought in rock n’ roll, sponsored dog shows and even ran a contest for customers to select the date, time and weight of his third child, which he claims produced 1,500 entries.

“When the baby came due and we got to Grossmont Hospital, the nurses, who had heard about the contest, took me to the nursing station and made me wait, saying, ‘We’ll let you know the exact time the baby arrives,” Stone says.

Stone even encouraged wedding parties to use the grocery store parking lot for receptions. Stone tore down the grocery store in 1981 to make way for a new office building.

In 1977, he was asked by a local attorney, Tom Murphy, to join the board of directors of the young American Valley Bank. It merged in 1989 with Bank of San Diego.

Valle De Oro Bank

When Bank of San Diego was closed by federal regulators in 1993, Stone received a call from Bill Ehlen, president of then-Spring Valley-based Valle de Oro Bank. Ehlen wanted Stone to open a Valle de Oro branch office in the same East Main Street building that had housed American Valley Bank.

Stone did so, and the branch was so successful the company headquarters moved there.

He is enthusiastic about community banking and what it can offer the depositor. Stone, while he regrets the demise of Valle de Oro Bank, said the 1999 acquisition by Community West Bancshares of Fargo, N.D., has provided an opportunity for Cuyamaca Bank in the East County market.

“With a local bank the customer knows if he has a problem he can get it solved by a decision-maker locally, right at home,” Stone says. “We get to know the customer by going out to his business and learning about his needs.”

Stone, who hesitates to talk about his accomplishments, has been an active participant in charities in East County for years, but it’s hard to get the names of all the organizations he’s helped. Those who have worked with him on charitable causes are more willing to talk.

Toy Drive Efforts

One effort he will discuss is the East County Toy Drive he started in 1975 with some other members of the El Cajon Lions Club. The event has grown so much over the years, more than 6,000 needy children in the area received three toys each from the toy drive this last Christmas, he said. The event has also grown to where it now includes a parade of fire trucks loaded with the toys collected that’s held the first December weekend in El Cajon.

Stone and his wife, Bonnie, married in 1951 after they were introduced by his brother during a chance meeting at Stone’s National City produce store. They have three daughters: Michelle; Bonnie; and Tina; and four grandchildren. His hobbies include saltwater fishing in Cabo San Lucas and camping. He also enjoys watching football on TV.

Terry Saverson, president and CEO of the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce, is effusive in her praise of him.

‘Mr. East County’

“Stoney is Mr. El Cajon, Mr. East County, because he has done so much for this area,” Saverson says. “He was chosen Citizen of the Year in 1987 by a group of some 20 service organizations called the Citizen of the Year Committee.”

Stone, who served on the board of directors of the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce from 1994-97, was instrumental in bringing about the merger of the El Cajon and La Mesa chambers of commerce, Saverson said.

“He was one of the founders of Project Navy, which brought all of the chambers, school districts and the cities of East County together to attract residents to East County when the Space and Naval Warefare Systems Command moved here from Virginia.”

She also praised Stone’s fund-raising for the El Cajon Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

“We’re very proud of Stoney Stone because when you talk about someone who has been a mover and shaker and really cares about El Cajon, that’s Stoney,” Saverson said. “The only reason he does this stuff is because he cares, and you don’t find that a lot.”

El Cajon police Chief Jim Davis also has worked on fund-raising events with Stone.

“Stoney and I formed the El Cajon Youth Development Advisory Council in 1991 when I originally went to Stoney to get some help raising money for the DARE program,” Davis says. “Stoney got this group of business people together and they raised the money to buy the DARE van. Since that time they’ve raised money to support our annual budget.”

The program is presented at all Cajon Valley Union School District campuses now.

“If you want to get something done in East County and it’s a worthy cause, you can go to Stoney and he will get people together and light a fire under them to get something done,” Davis says.

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