Germantown: From Great Authors to Great Pianos, Pine Place Has it All

Cunningham Piano Co. co-owner Richard Galassini stands with one of the dozens of pianos in the two-story showroom.
Cunningham Piano Co. co-owner Richard Galassini stands with one of the dozens of pianos in the two-story showroom.

Once home to one of the great American authors, Pine Place now houses some of the finest pianos in the area.

Founded in 1891 by Irish immigrant Patrick J. Cunningham, Cunningham Piano Co. is considered one of the premier piano shops in the country, said co-owner Richard Galassini.

The company’s store building, located at 5427 Germantown Ave., is the birthplace of Louisa May Alcott, author of “Little Women.” Cunningham also has a restoration factory located a few blocks away at 26 E. Coulter St.

Until 1941, Cunningham focused on its own brand, the Cunningham Piano. After World War II, when the company moved to Germantown, the focus shifted to restoration of older pieces.

The Cunningham, however, is still made today. The company’s goal is “to make an artistic-level piano that doesn’t have an artistic price tag,” Galassini said.

Galassini said he believes the tough economic times are almost an advantage. “If there is some money there, I think in today’s marketplace people look harder, they go to more places, they find out more about the options, and when they do that, then all of a sudden we become a very, very potent option,” he said.

Appeal for older, used pianos is widespread because of their better quality and sound due to the type of wood used. Newer pianos are made from faster growing food that has wavier grain, making it less strong and less quality wood, Galassini said. Pianos made in the past have the advantage of being made from original growth wood, “the same growth that the American Indians would walk by.”

Cunningham is also less expensive than other places because it doesn’t have high distribution costs.

The company relies a lot on word-of-mouth business. Galassini finds it “tremendous because the musical community is small and there is a lot of influential people.”

Cunningham Piano Co., once the site of a Masonic Hall, is also the birthplace of author Louisa May Alcott.

Some of those influential people include André Watts, a German-born classical pianist who now teaches at Indiana University, and Max Weinberg of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

“Most of them come to us because other musicians have also told them about us,” Galissini said.

Cunningham’s appeal spans a lot further than just the Delaware Valley. “We have people today that come to us from literally all over the world. We’ve delivered pianos to Japan, Korea, China, Great Britain, Germany, even New Jersey,” he joked.

Competition in the area is scarce. For the restoration aspect of the business, it is virtually non-existent. As for sales, “frankly, I think they go home at night trying to think of ways to stop people from buying pianos here.”

For more information on Cunningham Piano Co., visit https://www.cunninghampiano.com/.