Opening the Store

As a piano tuner and technician in Lake County for over 15 years, Alice Alviani was frequently asked: “Where do I buy a good piano?” This was a difficult question to answer, given that there were no piano stores in the area, and that she disagreed with some of the practices of some stores. To help families find a good instrument for a good price, she began to rent and sell pianos out of her home. Ten years later, in 2006, she took the next step and opened Family Piano Co with her business partner Mark MacLeod. An experienced piano tuner-technician himself, and the head of technical services for Steinway in the Chicagoland area, he was looking to escape corporate attitudes and pursue a more customer-centric approach.

Although it might be hard to believe, given how bustling south Genesee is now, Family Piano Co. was only the second tenant in our Harbor Place building and one of few business in all of downtown Waukegan that still exists. Alice and Mark did much of the build-out themselves, consulting with friends and family. The first delivery of inventory involved 34 brand new pianos!

Alice and Mark quickly discovered that the store required more than just two technicians, so shortly after opening, they hired Michael Collin to be their main field tuner, and Linda Charboneau as the office manager, both of whom are valuable members of our team to this day.

Joplin’s Java

Another early shift for Family Piano Co. was away from the traditional museum-like atmosphere of many piano stores and towards a more open, community-oriented vibe. We wanted to have kids showing up for music lessons, families coming in on Sundays for recitals, couples with their arms around each other on Friday night listening to a world-class jazz concert, and neighborhood artists meeting during the day over cups of expertly-roasted coffee. Thus, the idea for Joplin’s Java was born.

Named after Scott Joplin, an influential composer and a favorite of ragtime-playing Mark, the cafe grew to become an important part of the community. CONCERTS, OPEN MICS, ESPRESSO, ETC. Alice’s son, Brendan, began managing Joplin’s Java full-time after graduating Vanderbilt University in May 2010, and for the next year, helped Joplin’s grow into a more lively, active part of the downtown scene.

We decided in May, 2013 that our core business was music, and that we should focus our effort into creating the best music store. Sadly that meant closing Joplin’s Java. While May 23rd, 2013 was the last day that Joplin’s Java was open to the public, we still provide some simple accommodations for our customers and students. With the space now available for more pianos, we have expanded our used piano line and are planning for more music-oriented events/workshops.

Mark’s Illness

During a doctor’s visit in March 2010, co-owner Mark MacLeod was diagnosed with kidney failure. Things were looking very positive for Mark in November 2010. Co-owner Alice Alviani was a positive match and the two business partners were scheduled for a kidney donation operation for that December. Lab results showed improved blood pressure, immune system performance, and various indexes of general health. Unfortunately, however, on Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010 (the Tuesday before Thanksgiving), Mark was in routine dialysis when a chemical inbalance stopped his heart.

Mark MacLeod was a lively, engaging, and fun-loving individual. He left behind his wife, Karen MacLeod, his mother Jane, step-father Ed McCarron, sister Karen MacLeod, and other members of his family. One enduring message: monitor and manage your blood pressure effectively, to avoid such a heart-breaking tragedy yourself.

Moving Forward

Family Piano Co. has always been focused on piano expertise, and as such, we had to find a new technician to fill many of Mark’s roles. We could never replace Mark, but we did find another great technician for overseeing many of the technical aspects of the day-to-day piano refurbishing process.

One of Mark’s key roles was marketing the business. To improve our ability to reach out to the community about what we do, Brendan moved from beyond the coffeebar to primarily focusing on marketing.

To better serve the community, in May 2012 we opened our new Lesson Facility in our building. It has a large classroom for ensemble work, rehearsal space, group lessons, and more. There are also two smaller lesson rooms, with a ton of sound-proofing ensuring a good experience for all. Danielle Russel is our full-time Lesson Coordinator.

Although we’ve had our ups and downs as a company, we are looking forward to continuing to evolve and grow in how we serve the community.

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