I had the pleasure of stopping by Riedstra’s Violin Shop recently, which is quite a cozy music store and repair shop located downtown Kitchener, Ontario.
If you’re from the Kitchener area and you play an instrument – particularly if it is of the classical variety – you’ve no doubt heard of Riedstra’s, as they do all manner of repairs including even emergency repairs and lots of custom work as well.
If you’ve ever been in a pinch and needed something done for a brass or woodwind instrument, no doubt you’ve been by. They also sell instruments brand new, and various types of music books and accessories.
Riedstra’s has been operating out of the southern Ontario region for decades, opening in Stratford in 1978, and eventually finding a new home in Kitchener in 2000, where they have been ever since. They are known throughout the region for their precision work.
I sat down with Henry Riedstra, the shop owner, in order to ask him a few questions about the the day-to-day affairs of his shop, and pick his brain a bit about instruments.
Riedstra’s Violin Shop
As mentioned, Riedstra’s Violin Shop sells violins, but much more besides. The majority of work comes in the form of repairs and custom work, including bow repair.
Their bow maker and repair person, Alex, trained in France for five years and for the last 3 years with Henry in Kitchener.
In addition, their resident violin restorer Quentin has been working at the store for ten years, and has reached the level of master luthier level as of 2016. Prior to that, Quentin recieved a five-year diploma in violin making and repair from The Newark School of Violin Making in England in 2006.
Riedstra’s is a registered brass and woodwind shop with licensed dealers and technicians.
Riedstra’s keeps many new band instruments in stock, such as those from trusted brands like Yamaha, Conn USA, Selmer, LeBlanc, Bach, King, Armstrong Flutes (USA), Fox Bassoons and Oboes (USA), Nobel (Canada), Holton (USA), Eastman, Di Zhao flutes, and other brands. They also have some used brass and woodwind instruments available for purchase.
In addition, they repair and sell guitars, mandolins, harps, and accordions.
About Shop Owner Henry Riedstra
Henry Riedstra is a seasoned musician, luthier, and appraiser of instruments, with a long-standing career in the music world.
He grew up in a musical family, which lead to him to learning to play an assortment of brass and woodwind instruments from a young age as well as the violin and cello.
The musical bug stuck with him as he proceeded to amass more than 30 years of experience in the field, while also studying under renown violin makers such as Pete Molenaar and Dario D’Attili.
Heart And Mind
Days at the shop can be fairly busy. There’s lots of people going in and out either looking to buy instruments, have them repaired, or have them appraised. Henry has seen it all, including some violins sporting the famous Stradivarius label.
What stuck with me the most was that his work is not just something demanding great skill, but is also a craft that needs passion behind it. The attention to detail and surgically steady hand are crucial to the job, however, the position requires a heart behind it as much as anything else.
Players have a bond with their instrument, and one’s musical experience is always an emotional journey. This is why working with instruments is a bit of a different beast than your regular retail or repair gig. It’s much more than that because we all know an instrument is not just a tool, it’s a medium of expression.
Overall, we are glad we stopped in, and we learned a lot from Henry Riedstra about his shop during our talk. If you are in the Kitchener-Waterloo area and are a fan of classical music, you shouldn’t hesitate to stop by. You can also visit them online here for more information: