Allan Makin was born in Chatham, Kent in 1900. He worked as the production manager in the Sames piano factory in Birmingham until this was unfortunately lost to a tragic fire. He moved north to Edinburgh looking for work and was hired by Patersons, a notable piano firm which at that time was based in George Street in the centre of Edinburgh. Allan worked as the workshop manager here for some time, overseeing the high quality restoration work which was an important part of Patersons’ business.
In 1926 Allan’s son, also called Allan, was born. Always ambitious, Allan senior decided in 1931 to go into business on his own account, setting up in a small workshop in North East Cumberland Street Lane, in the New Town of Edinburgh. Conditions here were initially rather primitive, without telephone or running water. Fortunately, Allan had secured accommodation nearby in Royal Crescent and was able to work between the two premises. The business centered entirely on reconditioning instruments for the piano trade, which at that time in Edinburgh was much larger than today. Local piano tuners without their own workshop would commission Allan to restore their old pianos for subsequent resale to their own clients.
It was always likely that Allan junior would join the family business, as he had “helped” his father in the workshop from the age of five! Allan formally joined the business aged 15 and served his apprenticeship with his father. In those days, apprenticeships were long and arduous, typically lasting a minimum of five years. In 1943, the business had outgrown the small workshop in N E Cumberland Street Lane, and moved to 13c Dundas Street in central Edinburgh. The father and son team were becoming increasingly aware that the fruits of their labours were largely being enjoyed by these tuners, and so from the beginning, 13c Dundas Street had a small piano showroom in which to display their own work. Trade work steadily declined as Allan focussed on reconditioning pianos for his own growing business, with the aim of securing the future for himself and his son.
This formula proved very successful, and the firm enjoyed a good reputation for high quality reconditioning work on upright and grand pianos. Sales on new instruments were added in the early 1960s. Allan junior’s son Brian joined the business in 1971, serving his apprenticeship in piano building and tuning. The business continued to grow.
The next move came in 1973, when much larger premises were acquired in 5 Summer Place, formerly a dressmaker’s shop. With a much larger showroom, it was possible to display grand pianos for the first time.
In 1985, Allan’s second son Colin joined the business, and shortly thereafter further expansion took place with the purchase of 4 Summer Place. Following major building work, the two buildings amalgamated into very much larger premises, 4-5 Summer Place. The business now traded as Allan Makin & Sons. Allan junior retired from the business around this time, leaving the business in the hands of the Makin brothers, Brian and Colin.