Business Profile – Bunn=Minnick Pipe Organs
by Mary Martineau
The venerable Bunn=Minnick Pipe Organs building is a veritable neighborhood landmark. An imposing brick presence on Michigan Avenue that is delicately illuminated at night by glowing candles in each window, the structure inspires awe. The impression of its façade deepens with the realization of the unique craftsmanship taking place within. Bunn=Minnick Pipe Organs services, rebuilds, restores, designs and creates pipe organs.
Bunn=Minnick Pipe Organs is named after founders Robert W. Bunn and Philip D. Minnick. Childhood experiences independently guided each of them toward an interest in pipe organs. The pair met while working for another Columbus company but decided that they had different business philosophies than their employer and decided to give it a go on their own. Thus, Bunn=Minnick Pipe Organs was born in 1969 in the cellar of Robert Bunn’s home in the neighborhood that would gain the familiar moniker, “Victorian Village.” The business of servicing and rebuilding existing pipe organs and constructing new ones grew tremendously from those humble basement beginnings, and soon, the duo needed more space. In 1975, they purchased their first building—on the northwest corner of Harrison and First Avenues—in the area that was not yet known as “Harrison West.” (Today the site is occupied by condos.) When they purchased the building, it was an eyesore, but their renovation improved the look of the corner, generated new interest in the area and inspired others in the vicinity to improve their own properties.
In 1977, the company purchased a second building, this one in Victorian Village proper at the northeast corner of Harrison and First—directly across the street from their first building. (The second building is notable for its frosted glass windows.) But even two buildings proved unable to contain Bunn=Minnick’s growth. In 1991, the firm invested in its current location at 875 Michigan Avenue. The 26,000-square-foot building was built in 1927 for International Derrick and Equipment Company (IDECO), but it sat empty for 25 years. Bunn=Minnick became the fourth owner but only the second occupant. At the time of purchase, the building was a blight on the neighborhood. Its windows and doors were boarded up, and its bleak appearance did nothing to enhance the surrounding area, which at the time was not part of any specific Columbus neighborhood. Eventually, Harrison West’s borders expanded southward to Goodale Street and welcomed the Bunn=Minnick property.
Bunn=Minnick was very deliberate in its renovation of the building. Adhering as closely as possible to guidelines for historic preservation, the company altered the building as little as possible while adapting for use as a pipe-organ factory and repair facility. The design of each area of the building was carefully considered and designed with input from the entire staff. One critical requirement was to add an exterior shaft and freight elevator that would move heavy pipe organ components from floor to floor. Another—the biggest modification—was to remove the second floor in the northeast corner of the building to create a space tall enough to erect the pipe organs. In this double-height space, employees can assemble and test fully playable instruments prior to delivery. Once again, Bunn=Minnick’s careful restoration of a historic building dramatically improved the area, and their restoration again inspired additional redevelopment in the area.
Approximately 70 pipe organs have been built, re-built or restored and thousands of pipe organs have been tuned in the building since 1991. Bunn=Minnick employs around 20 highly skilled staff members whose talents include including woodworking, cabinet making, electrical and solid-state, metalworking, drafting, tonal dexterity, gold leaf application and just about every other skill needed to hand craft pipe organs. Its pipe organs have been shipped throughout Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Kentucky and Florida.
Bunn=Minnick employees love the diversity of the businesses, residents and residences in Harrison West. As they point out, where else can you find a pipe organ company nestled between the production facility of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and the Superior Beverage Beer and Wine Distributing Company? But really, where else can you find a pipe organ company? What a wonderful business to have in Harrison West, a business that has contributed to the development and improvement of the area for 43 years. It’s a testament to their vision that Bunn=Minnick Pipe Organs continues to thrive even though the company where Bunn and Minnick got their start was defunct just a few years after they struck out on their own. Want to get an even more intimate view into the Bunn=Minnick organization? You can schedule a tour through the company’s Website: www.bunnminnick.com!