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Emmaus, East Penn Music to Shop Owner's Ears

Mike Montero moved his business and his family to Emmaus to be closer to family and string instrument market.

When people welcomed Montero Violins into Emmaus in early August, few realized the violin instructor was also the former mayor of Camillus, N.Y.

Mike Montero, 32, was the mayor of the tiny village near Syracuse, recently giving up his title as the village began converting into a town, according to the Eagle Observer newspaper in Central New York.

“I was mayor for one year, and before that village trustee for two years." he said. “I enjoy playing, performing, teaching and a good comedy show."

He wasn’t referring to politics…

Mike is joined by wife Jennifer; a nearly two-year-old daughter, Julianna, and Gabriella on the way.

He is obviously a man who can play -- and pull -- strings.

The Monteros have relocated their String Corner business in the Syracuse area to 705 Chestnut St. in Emmaus, changing the name. Montero Violins is located in the former Business Services Building.

“I was in the Syracuse area and we were experiencing a lot of string cutbacks and that, combined with the fact that I have one daughter and one on the way,” he said. “From here, it’s not far to see my parents with two babies. From a family standpoint, I wanted to be closer.

“Most of my family lives on the western side of Jersey…We wanted to make the move to a place that is affordable to us and where we can grow the business.

“After seeing how many student orchestras, semipro orchestras, such as the Allentown Symphony, and various schools that have a string program, we felt this would be a good fit for us.”

Montero said he used Google to search the Lehigh Valley.

“We actually typed in a Google search for string programs in Pennsylvania schools,” he said. “It took me in Pittsburgh, Philly and the East Penn School District and Lower Macungie.

“Then we checked out school report cards, which was important to my wife, especially. East Penn appears to be a real good school district. It also supports strings.

“We spent two months driving around looking at the area homes. We thought this would be a good fit. We‘re currently living in an apartment, giving us a chance to get used to the area before buying."

Montero isn’t unaccustomed to moving. A native of Staten Island, he attended Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, where the father of a girl he knew worked at Pep Boys. His violin, which he started at age 11, almost became second fiddle.

“I went to Pep Boys as a part-time gig,” he said. “I turned out managing a store. So when I graduated, I felt I had a secure job and that was part of the goal.

“I probably didn’t touch my violin for a good four to five years. Pep Boys transferred me up to Northern New York, where I walked into a Martin Piano store. They were looking for someone to build upright pianos and learn how to do it.

“So when I went to do that, my father thought I was insane, and I probably was. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made. I had my mother ship my violin up to me and I took that apart to see how it worked. That spawned my interest in how string instruments worked.”

With renewed interest in music, he joined a community orchestra in New York and met Thomas Cox, about 80, an acoustical engineer who served as a teacher.

“I spent about two years at his workshop in his basement,“ Montero said. “In that time, he had made about 30 violins and violas.”

The Monteros seem to be settling into Emmaus, and the borough is settling in on them.

“After reading the newspapers, people have been coming in here and thanking me because they would otherwise have to go to Reading to see a violin shop,” he said.

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