Kolstein Music owner Manny Alvarez helps musicians find the right instrument

Her first love

Alvarez, 33, knows what that looks like. When he was in third grade, he joined his elementary school orchestra. He rented a violin and, under the tutelage of an influential music teacher, began to play in earnest. By the time he entered college, he was determined to buy a better instrument. His parents pleaded for patience, but by the age of 15 he had persuaded them to go to Kolstein, he said. He fell in love with a $3,500 violin, and Kolstein let him borrow the instrument.

His music teacher admired him. But his parents said “absolutely not”, he recalls. He ended up with a less good violin and a weekend job at Kolstein. He learned repair and sales as he rose through the business.

He went to college and tried different jobs across the country. He got married and had children. But eventually he returned to Kolstein.

The transfer of ownership came at the same time as the closure of New York in an attempt to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Alvarez nonetheless got creative, trying out ideas that would solidify the company. He updated the infrastructure, digitizing the archives and documents and uploading the complete photographic catalog of the inventory.

“Then we started moving into expansion,” he said.

He opened a pop-up store in the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City. It was there that he learned that some New Yorkers back home had turned to musical hobbies. He designed and launched an affordable beginner’s series that started at $220 for a complete set: violin, bow, rosin, and case. Inspired by the fact that his children loved to strum, he also started selling ukuleles.

Alvarez wanted to support musicians and remind fans of the thrill of live music after months at home. It held weekly performances, first on Long Island and then at the Essex House, owned by Marriott. Setting up the shows led to longer conversations about a permanent future for Marriott’s music store.