Chicago Tribune - "In Touch with History"

Chicago TribuneRenaissance Craftsmen Restoration: One of a number of area companies that bring old things back to life.

By Rick Kogan

Posted Aug. 10, 2003
Copyright 2003 by the Chicago Tribune.

F is for Forest Park, that near-western suburb that is home to Nadeau's Ice Sculptures Inc., which is in the business of creating things that are not meant to last beyond the next 40-degree day.

It is also home to Renaissance Craftsmen Restoration Inc., which is in the business of restoring old pianos and furniture that were built to last for more than one lifetime.

RCR is one of a number of area companies that will bring old things back to life. One of our favorites has long been the shop run by Steve Kazmier, who rebuilds old typewriters. Such businesses might seem to be commercial oddities, operating as they do in the shadows of an increasingly high-tech, faster-smaller-newer world where history means last month.

Jerry Cappelli started RCR in 1980 with this philosophy: "For those of us who enjoy the feel, look, smell and texture of good woods, we revel in the beauty and grandeur of the past generations' materials and the exquisite work of the craftsmen who cut and finished them."

Few people get in the restoration business to get rich. RCR's dozen or so employees (that's Damon Fleming in the photo) handle only about 30 pianos a year because each takes months to restore.

Now, Osgood and I have nothing against progress or new gizmos that make life easier. But we are sure that 100 years from now there will not be companies in the business of restoring old I-Macs or espresso machines or electronic keyboards.

We're not recommending that you plunk down $35,000 or more for a 19th Century piano. But you might, as you visit the flea markets, yard sales and craft fairs that dot the Chicago area during these summer months, pick up something old, some item that was not fashioned by machine but by man, or woman. It will be the result of some honest labor and you will realize that human hands made this thing and that by touching it you will be, literally and figuratively, shaking hands with history.