A violin shop with pluck
The romantic draw of music has made a great impact on Tom Metzler’s life. It has taken him from an impressionable young boy to the owner of a violin shop in Glendale.
When he was 7 or 8 years old, living in Iowa, Metzler’s parents took him to an Iowa State University concert where he was awestruck by a sequin-dress-wearing violin soloist.
“I was just swept up in the beauty of the music and the romance of it,” Metzler said.
He told his parents he wanted to learn violin, and proceeded to study with that same violin soloist for about 10 years.
Then in high school, Metzler read a romanticized account of the famous violin maker Antonio Stradivari and discovered his dream — to be a violin maker.
“I don’t remember the details, but I remember thinking, ‘That’s the coolest possible profession,’” Metzler said. “I guess I didn’t want to be a fireman like the other kids.”
In college at Iowa State University as a violin student, Metzler decided he was “not cut out” to be a professional violinist. During a summer job with a company that imported violins, he met four or five German violin makers and found a way to realize his dream.
“They told me about this school in Germany and showed me photos of them biking in the Alps with cellos strapped to their backs, and I wanted to go,” Metzler said. “I didn’t think about the financial implications of it.”
After 3 1/2 years at the Bavarian State Trade School for Violin Making, Metzler received a degree in 1976.
Next he got a job repairing violins in Hollywood, and, after three years, opened a violin shop in Glendale with partner David Rivinus.
Today, Metzler and his wife, Barbara Don, own the Metzler Violin Shop, which has been on Central Avenue since 1983.
Metzler doesn’t make many violins these days, but instead focuses on the business, he said.
Decorated with the string-instrument-themed knickknacks and collectibles that Metzler and Don have collected over the years, Metzler Violin Shop is a small, family-owned business. They sell and rent instruments, sell sheet music, do repairs and offer lessons, all for string instruments.
“I like the quaintness of it,” store employee DeeDee Hoening said, while watching a customer’s rambunctious 5-year-old run around the shop while his mother shopped for an instrument. Hoening handles bookkeeping and customer service at the shop — and often doubles as a baby-sitter.
With only four employees plus Metzler and Don, the staff is like a family.
“It’s very team- and family-oriented,” Hoening said, adding that they get together outside of work sometimes for staff parties.
John Oshita, who works in sheet music sales at the shop and is a professional cellist, said staff members sometimes get together in a practice room of the shop to play music.
Metzler and Don’s daughter, Julie Metzler, 20, said she remembers playing in the shop as a little girl and has known the people who work there all her life.
All of the staff described Tom Metzler as kind and understanding, and unanimously concurred that their boss has a “funky side.”
“Tom is the best boss anyone would want to have,” said Oshita, who feels fortunate to work in a beautiful shop with great employees and an environment where he can meet musicians and hear music all day, he said.
Both Tom Metzler and Don said their shop is about more than just making money.
“In a way, a violin shop is more than just a business for business’ sake,” Don said. “We don’t have a corporate attitude. Just the other day a customer said that the shop seems old-fashioned and European.”
It was romanticism that led Tom Metzler to open a violin shop, and, in a way, it is romanticism that keeps the shop running.