Bill Ganzel has been restoring pianos in the same location for 35 years. Overall, Ganzel has restored pianos for 55 years. Bringing player pianos back to their old roar, refinising beautifully carved cabinets of grands, returning little spinets to their previous playfulness– these are what he does in his specialty shop in an industrial complex in Racine. Bill’s business began with some Steinways in his basement (a special elevator was devised). It was about that time when a blind tuner requested his assistance with string replacements and other minor repairs. Eventually the new operation turned big-time, that is, two or three restorations a year and a couple of tunings per morning out in the town for Bill.
I came across Bill about three years ago as I looked online locally for a client of mine interested in a specific type of piano. I bought that piano from Bill, but then my contact backed out. Bill let me leave my new purchase there until I found another buyer, which I did, at a better price.
Shortly thereafter I found a school district in Milwaukee County that was accepting bids on a nine-foot Baldwin restoration. Bill and I threw our hat in together on a proposal and got chosen over an East Coast competitor. This project lasted several months. Bill’s methodical pressing forward and his knowledge of many details revealed his capability for keeping a full perspective on necessary progress. In the meantime I snapped a lot of photos and kept to work I did best: stripping and sanding wood and polishing up brass. After delivering the huge black product back to the school, we had no time for breathing. Another grand piano restoration, this time for an Illinois couple, came my way right on the heels of the first.
Over time Bill has grown in two ways: skill in craftsmanship, and the load of tools to get the jobs done right. Bill knows, however, that one day within the next 55 years he is going to have to either fold the shop or sell it to a younger tradesman. In the meantime it is business as usual! At this very moment he is putting the final touches on a project of his own doing, the restoration of a gorgeous “quality-oriented” provincial-style Knabe with sostenuto and a solid pedal lyre. He hopes someone will be interested in buying it, preparing for decades of enjoyment in their home. If this intrigues you, call Bill at work during the day at (262) 632-7612 or email him at [email protected] A few photos of Bill and his Knabe are featured here.