This "mini upright" piano has been in my family across four generations. It was built by the Kramer Piano Company, which by 1920, had grown to occupy several blocks of West 140th Street in upper Manhattan.
For the earliest part of its life, the piano was used in a restaurant named "Villepigue's Inn." The restaurant was established in Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn by my great grand father in 1886. They first introduced the whole lobster "Shore Dinner" for $1.25. This was during the first half of the 20th century; historically considered the peak of Coney Island. The restaurant was eventually taken over by Lundy's in 1948.
According to my family's history, this piano was wheeled around the restaurant where nightly performers entertained diners and dancers. By the 1940's the piano would have been played by New York's local blues and jazz club talent. A news clipping from the Pittsburgh Courier, dated August 26, 1939, describes Villepigue's Inn as having revived "week-end revues with Arthur Davey and his Cotton Club band doing the playing."
After the family restaurant was closed, the piano spent the next 40 years in a little pub area in my grandfather's house in Long Island. I doubt the piano was ever serviced during this time and it fell into a state of disrepair. Upon my grandfathers death in 1993, the mini upright hit a low point as it was banished to a car garage and at one point suffered a collision with my mother's front end bumper. My parents considered having the instrument thrown out and I remember pleading with them not too. Thankfully, better judgement prevailed and my mother had the piano restored to a playable condition.
The piano spent its next 20 years in more comfortable climate-controlled surroundings, at my parents house in South Carolina. In 2017, I had the piano shipped back to its native New York and it now resides in my Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio.
I have been working with Isaac of Orpheus Piano Co. to maintain the color and aged characteristics of the piano, while bringing it back to a studio recordable quality. With Isaac's impressive experience, we're adjusting for pitch and mechanical operation in a piecemeal fashion. Overtime, we plan on making further adjustments and perhaps smoothing out the relative tone across registers.
Chris operates boutique music production/licensing house SongLoft in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where this special piano lends it's inimitable vibes to the impressive collection of top tier gear Chris uses daily in producing his acclaimed music.