Puzon’s Music to shutter after generations of instrument sales, instruction, and repair
By Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (August 22, 2020) – A fourth-generation business in Lansing will be closing its doors after supplying instruments to aspiring and professional musicians, providing musical instruction, and repairing instruments for more than six decades. The final day of business for Puzon’s Music will be September 12th.
After discharge from the U.S. Army in 1945, Zigmund “Ziggy” Puzon entered an instrument repair apprenticeship with Frank Kaspar of Chicago, completing his training in 1947. He then spent time working at LoDuca Accordions, American Plating and Chicago Music Sales as an instrument repairman.
Ziggy was stationed at Ft. Sheridan in Highland Park while in the U.S. Army and was part of the post band. His captain was a well-known big band leader of the era named Wayne King. He also played with a trumpet player from New Orleans, Al Hirt, and a French horn player from Whiting, Milan Yanchich, who went on to play with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra under George Sell.
On Valentine’s Day in 1956, Ziggy opened his own shop on Chicago’s East Side and set forth on serving customers with a simple philosophy of offering quality brand-name merchandise and expert repair at affordable prices.
While running his store, Ziggy also performed with Stan Wolowic and the Polka Chips and Bernie Witkowski’s Polka Party on WGN-TV. He had a successful combo on his own, as well, and played at countless weddings, parties, clubs and other events for more than 50 years.
Ziggy offered sales and service of orchestral instruments, accessories for all instruments and individual lessons as well as some school service. Many of the store’s former students have gone on to have successful music careers.
Like father like son
When Ziggy’s son Marty was 10 he learned how to disassemble and prep instruments for his dad to do the finish work. He was doing repair work by the age of 15 and learned to play clarinet, saxophone, and flute from his father. Marty later went on to study trumpet and trombone as well.
He followed in his father’s footsteps by not just working in the shop, but performing with his dad’s combo and with local bands. In 1974, he had formed his own combo called Montage, which was later renamed The East Side Players.
The musical genes have extended to two more generations as Marty’s son and grandson have also been involved in the business.
In 1988, The East Side Players, which was also comprised of bandmates Mike Schnabel, Bob Klimczak and Ed DiMarco, had the honor of performing at several area campaign rallies for then Vice President George H. W. Bush, culminating in a performance with jazz legend Lionel Hamptons.
Mike Wachala’s family was also in the music business and had a store of their own for five decades. His father, Harry Wachala, played gigs with Ziggy during World War II. “My family’s friendship with the Puzon family dates back a long time,” said Mike Wachala. “Their store has been in business for almost 65 years. They have specialized in sales and repairs of musical instruments, offered instruction and sold miscellaneous musical accessories. I doubt there is a local musician or school band instructor anywhere in the area who is not familiar with the Puzon name.”
Wachala noted how appropriate the Puzon name is for the profession that Ziggy went into. “In Polish, their last name actually translates as ‘trombone,’” he said. “Our families have done business together since World War II. It was always a pleasure dealing with the Puzons. They’re talented musicians, excellent repairmen and honorable merchants. The area is truly losing a local landmark establishment.”
The next generations
In 1983, Marty took over the business and just as he had been trained by his father, he also passed on his skills and knowledge to his son, Marty Jr., who began working with him in the shop in 1988 at age 12.
Marty Jr. became an accomplished repairman as well as a saxophone and clarinet player. In 1989, the family moved the shop from Chicago’s East Side to their current Lansing location on Burnham Avenue. Marty Jr. continued working in the family business until he accepted a full-time position with C.H. Robinson, but he continued to work on weekends with his father.
In 2014, Ziggy’s great-grandson continued the family tradition in the music business. Marty Jr.’s son Zayd, then 10, learned how to disassemble and prep instruments for his dad to do the finish work, just as his grandfather had done at that age. Now at age 16, he has learned to re-pad clarinets and saxophones and his sister Layla, 12, has also been helping out at the shop and learning the art of instrument repair.
“Puzon’s Music was fortunate to have an outstanding staff of instructors at the shop. Many of Chicago’s top jazz musicians taught here,” said Marty Puzon. “I would like to thank Kirk Garrison, Tom Matta, Rudy Mahanthappa, Dr. Curtis Prince, Rob Denty, Marques Carroll, Tim Bales, John Wachala and all the other instructors who over the years taught and mentored their students here. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to know, work, and become friends with these individuals. Finally, my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to all the people who have patronized and supported our business over the years. I’ve enjoyed every moment serving and schmoozing with you. I will miss, but never forget you.”
In addition to the hit the business has taken during the pandemic, Marty said the internet has made it harder for all brick and mortar businesses to survive. In the end, it was more the desire for more time with family and to enjoy life more than sales that caused Marty to make the decision to close the businesses after 64 1/2 years.
“I took the business over from my dad 37 years ago working six days a week in addition to performing with my band. I want to have more personal time to spend with my wife of 48 years, June, and enjoy things we’ve put off due to our work schedules before we’re too old to do it,” said Marty.
He’ll still do some repair work, he said, either through other local music stores or by working directly with customers. Those interested in repairs can reach him via email at [email protected] to make arrangements. He also still gets together with band members for sessions, but they no longer are performing gigs.
“I will miss the interaction with the people who frequented the shop, the teachers and students,” he said.
Puzon’s Music is located at 3151 191st Place in Lansing.