When Long Island musicians – or aspiring players – want a high-quality-sounding violin, viola, cello, or bass, they go to Kolstein’s in Baldwin. The company has spent more than three quarters of a century building and restoring instruments and their bows.
From the outside, the store and manufacturing workshop on Foxhurst Road, just off Merrick Road, looks fairly small. But stepping inside its modest frame opens up a whole world of instrument-making, and as owner Manny Alvarez hopes, a world of music-making – just as he discovered there as a teenager.
“I’m the first generation born in the United States in my family,” Alvarez says. “Music introduced me to a world that I never had the opportunity to be in and that wasn’t around me growing up. [Kolstein’s] was a new experience for me.”
Alvarez has been working there since Barrie offered him a job to pay off a violin that his family couldn’t afford. Barrie’s father, Samuel Kolstein, founded Kolstein’s in the 1940s. Barrie joined in the ‘70s, and when Samuel died in 1999, Barrie took over.
Over the years, Alvarez remained working there, whether at the store or remotely from college helping out with online operations. As he got older and started a family, he wanted to ensure his career with Kolstein’s was lasting and secure. So he bought it in 2019.
Since then, he has transformed the shop to add a performance stage and digital marketing aspects to the business. He also expanded to open a temporary pop-up shop and display at the Roosevelt Field Mall — the temporary shop and display are now closed — and a shop in Manhattan.
Kolstein’s instruments are played at Carnegie Hall, on Broadway stages, and will even be featured as props in an upcoming movie being filmed near the Manhattan shop, Alvarez says. His overall goal is to share the history and beauty of music through Kolstein’s.
“During [the height of] Covid, medical health professionals would come in and say that they were overwhelmed and they remember that music would be one of the only things to make them truly relax,” Alvarez says. “So they would go back to music.”
There are hundreds of instruments throughout the facility, from finished products to basic wood carvings waiting to be crafted into an instrument to basses and violins being painted by Barrie Kolstein himself. About 10 workers help build instruments; the business employs 15 people at any given time of year.
The Baldwin shop is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
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