Steinway & Sons reopens historic Astoria piano factory following COVID closure

Courtesy of Steinway & Sons

Steinway & Sons announced that its historic Astoria factory is fully reopened and once again producing the world’s finest pianos.

After a partial opening earlier in July with nearly 20 percent of its workforce, the company has gradually welcomed back its full complement of more than 200 artisans, along with managers, foremen, engineers and other employees supporting Steinway’s manufacturing process.

After its 1853 founding in Manhattan and multiple New York City expansions, Steinway & Sons purchased the land where the Astoria factory has stood for more than 150 years. It opened the factory soon afterward. Piano production has continued on this site, mostly unabated, through the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, two World Wars and the Great Depression.

During World War II, the factory was used to build gliders as part of the U.S. war effort as well as special “Victory Vertical” pianos that provided live music to troops on the front lines.

“Our company is more than 167 years old, and we have faced many unique challenges since our founding,” Steinway & Sons President and CEO Ron Losby said. “While today’s pandemic is unprecedented in many ways, I have no doubt that we will rise to the occasion once again as we continue to provide our precision-crafted pianos to artists, institutions and those who love music. In these times, the power of music to heal and bring us together is needed even more.”

During the factory downtime, extensive measures were taken to ensure a safe work environment for returning workers. Among the many changes Steinway’s workers encountered upon their return to work were temperature checks upon entry; health screenings; company-provided face masks; staggered shifts and breaks; numerous new hand sanitizer stations and rigorous cleaning schedules; and a new layout in some areas to ensure adequate distancing between workers.

“While we are a very traditional company, one of our most important traditions is constantly improving our manufacturing facilities and processes, and in turn improving the pianos that we produce,” Steinway & Sons Vice President of Manufacturing Stephen Emmerth said. “So integrating these changes happened naturally, and we’re now not only building the best Steinways we’ve ever built, we’re doing so in the safest factory environment we’ve ever had.”

The Steinway factory was closed for nearly four months.

“It’s very difficult to lose almost one-third of our production for the year. Building a Steinway is a labor-intensive process that can’t be sped up,” Losby said. “We were actually surprised with the level of sales we saw during this pandemic. If the demand for Steinways this fall is typical of other years, we will likely run out of pianos, so we are very hopeful that our factory will be able to continue at full production. However, the safety of our artisans is our number one priority. If at any point we feel there is a safety issue, we will take whatever steps are necessary to remediate that issue, up to and including another factory shutdown.”

As another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, many piano festivals and competitions that were set to take place this summer and beyond have been canceled or postponed. As a result, Steinway has a large inventory of almost-new, competition approved pianos for sale to the general public at a discount through the end of July.

For more information, visit the company’s website here.