By: Rebekah Drozd, LVAC Intern
Since 1912, the John J. Zeiner family has been tuning and restoring pianos for families, churches and colleges in the Lehigh Valley. Their passion and quality craftsmanship sets them apart from the others and has kept the business flourishing for more than four generations.
John Zeiner Sr.’s father Andrew DeLong worked as a piano tuner in Easton. DeLong started his own private business in Allentown, working out of his home and a basement workshop.
His son John J Zeiner Sr. continued the growing business while raising sons John Jr. and Tom. The family lived and worked in the current store on Hanover Avenue in Allentown.
“This particular building my great-grandfather bought for my mother and father to operate the business here, and live here. I grew up in this building, I was around it all my life,” said John Jr.
He went on to explain that since he was old enough to work, there was never any pressure from his father to run the business.
“When I was about 14 years old, it was a way to make some cash and I was learning a trade at the same time. I enjoyed it. I think it’s a matter of enjoying it that’s part of the secret.”
Entering John J Zeiner & Sons’ showroom, I was welcomed by Tom Zeiner and a room of new and beautifully restored pianos. As we waited for John Jr. to arrive, Tom gave me a walking tour. When we walked into the workshop, the smell of refinishing was in the air as craftsmen restored the cabinet of an old Steinway. As I sat down for my interview with John Jr., a regular customer comfortably continued to play a Steinway in the showroom.
Today the family business functions with the two brothers handling traveling, tuning, retail and restorations. John Jr. travels on the road to clients every week within their 40-mile radius and Tom works with staff on restorations and retail sales. Many aspects of the Zeiner family’s business have changed since 1912, but the dedication to the customer has stayed the same.
For the Zeiner family, the Lehigh Valley represents a place full of business opportunities and a way to engage with the arts.
“There’s a lot being offered, the colleges, the private venues. There’s a lot going on in the Lehigh Valley.” Said John Jr.
With each generation, Zeiner & Sons’ list of clientele continues growing with the business. They have tuned, serviced, and restored pianos for many local churches, colleges, concert venues and school districts. Some of their loyal clients are Moravian College, Muhlenberg College, University of Penn, Wilkes College, First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem and Allentown, The Sands Casino and The Steel Stacks.
While Zeiner & Sons work with many cultural organizations in the community, the majority of their tuning and restoration work is for the hundreds of in-home consumers, families and piano teachers they service each year.
“A lot of this service work is dictated by what the customer is looking for; are they looking for a performance piano, or are they looking for something for their daughter or son to play on and see if an interest sparks.”
Upon finishing our interview, John Jr. showed me a Steinway they were currently restoring. Fellow craftsman Mike was refinishing the piano cabinet in preparation for installing a new soundboard.
“This will be like a brand new piano when it’s done, every bit, and even better in some regard because of the craftsmanship. It’s not factory setting; it’s all craftsman work. It’s the big attention to detail; that’s what sets us apart.”
For more information on John J. Zeiner & Sons: www.johnjzeiner.com