Zeswitz – 812 Penn Street

Zeswitz
812 Penn Street pictured in 1953

Zeswitz is a music store that most Berks Countians recognize, but some of you may remember when one of the locations was in downtown Reading on the 800 block of Penn Street.

Zeswitz was founded in 1923 by Philadelphia native William “Bill” Zeswitz Sr. According to Zeswitz’s website he was, “master luthier and maker of world-class violins, and founded the company to serve the Reading Symphony Orchestra and musicians in the area.” 

The business became widely known for its rentals and school services department which was one of the first in the United States to provide such services. It is still at the forefront of the industry. Now the business is located at 100 Gibralter Road in Exeter Township.

Born and raised in Berks, I am fascinated by the design, architecture, culture & style of the 20th century. I started this website to research and build a collection of the places, things and stories I have heard about my entire life. Read more here.

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David Procter
David Procter
2 years ago

I believe in the earlier days, the store sold recordings of music – LPs and tapes. I don’t know how extensive their inventory was, but I had become enamored with Handel’s Water Music Suite in those days, and when I was in Vietnam, 1968-1969, I bought a reel-to-reel tape deck,which were the rage around that time, and I asked my mother if she could get a reel-to-reel tape of the recording. She went to the Zeswitz shop; the tape was ordered, and within a few weeks, a wonderful Deutsche Grammophon reel–to-reel tape of the recording was delivered, and my mother mailed it to me.

Bob Snyder
Bob Snyder
2 years ago

My mother was a big Tommy Dorsey fan, so when I was in fourth or fifth grade she wanted me to play the trombone. We made arrangements through my school to rent one from Zeswitz. We had to take it back after we found out my arms weren’t long enough to reach the low notes. That was in 1954 or 1955.

Dave Adams
Dave Adams
2 years ago

If I remember correctly, the local branch of the Philadelphia Folk Song Society held their meetings upstairs. Karen Cooper (Miss Berks County 1964) provided the music. I left for college that year and couldn’t continue. But I bought my first guitar there, and many LP’s. Great store.

Stephen Leinbach
Stephen Leinbach
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Adams

Bro, That’s where I bought all (or at least almost all) of my Kingston Trio albums.
Steve

Jerrilyn Carter
Jerrilyn Carter
2 years ago

loved to go in there. bought my albums there

Sally Swienckowski
Sally Swienckowski
2 years ago

The store at 8th and Penn had a great gift shop, my Grandmother bought me a music box that I fell in love with, that was about 1948, still have it.

Barry Drey
Barry Drey
7 months ago

You omitted the fact they also sold furniture. Purchased most of my furniture there in 1971. I may still have the receipts !

JOSEPH P HOFMANN
JOSEPH P HOFMANN
2 years ago

Interested in seeing anything you can dig up on Eckert Bros., Zeswitz’s competition. I took trumpet lessons from John Schaeffer at their downtown location and then also when they moved out to Temple. Today, it is hard to believe my mother put me on a city bus at age 11 or 12 and let me get there and back on my own. I guess we were the original free range kids back then.

Thomas DeWire Sr MD
Thomas DeWire Sr MD
2 years ago

I used to take piano lessons upstairs at Zeswitz from Mildred Roth around about 1960. I also learned how good greasy hamburgers with onions were off the grill at the Crystal Palace which was just up Penn Street from Zeswitz

Terry Seidel
Terry Seidel
3 months ago

I remember, I took Organ Lessons upstairs, and had those wonderful burgers too afterwards… good times then in the mid 60’s… Had a wonderful teacher too, Mrs. Speck…

David Procter
David Procter
2 years ago

Wasn’t the Crystal Palace on South 6th Street not far from Franklin Street? The Crystal Restaurant was on Penn Street several blocks below Zeswitz.

Bob Snyder
Bob Snyder
1 year ago
Reply to  David Procter

I believe there was a Crystal Palace on Penn St. between 9th and 10th in the 50’s and 60’s. Does anyone else remember this?

Franklin Starkey
Franklin Starkey
2 years ago

Didn’t someone sit upstairs in the window of Zeswitz and play Christmas carols that you could hear outside

Donna Gambler-Ritter

No, that was Wittich’s Music, a few blocks down on Penn. Zeswitz’s had students playing in the window on Saturday afternoons. I was one of them.

Terry Seidel
Terry Seidel
3 months ago

me too… I remember playing in the window too…

Steve Hehr
Steve Hehr
7 months ago

I have an aunt who worked at Zeswitz about 60 years ago. She’s still around, though not in the best of health.

Berks Nostalgia