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Our Founder, Fred Leithold


Fred was the oldest active merchant in La Crosse at the time of his death. At age 95, he had not missed one day of work due to illness in the previous 64 years. After attending Upper Iowa University, he took up piano tuning having learned the trade in a Chicago piano factory. He traveled within a 100-mile radius of La Crosse, using a bicycle for transportation. Due to demand for new pianos, he opened a storefront in 1888.

In 1906, Fred took over the ownership and operation of the La Crosse School of Music. Housed on the second floor of the music store, piano, voice, and violin lessons were given. As a music merchant, he believed in and promoted the finest in music and personally worked diligently to assist in bringing many famous musical celebrities to the city.

Fred was an active member of the Board of Trade, predecessor of the present Chamber of Commerce, an officer of the one-time Wisconsin Music Dealers Association, and one of the earliest members of the National Association of Music Merchants.

(excerpts from La Crosse Tribune, Feb. 12, 1953)

Second Generation, Harry R. Leithold


Harry organized the first high school band in this area, when it was considered something of a frill. He helped many schools start their music programs and find the teachers to run them. He was active in the La Crosse County Historical Society. He was the last surviving charter member of the La Crosse Kiwanis Club (Noon), and was active in its many community service projects.

Harry’s favorite products were the phonographs and records. Leithold Music was one of the first in the United States to display the “new fangled” Victor Talking Machine with single sided discs in 1900. As a premium for being one of the first 100 Victrola dealers in the United States, Leithold Music received a three-foot papier mâché “Nipper” dog for display. As technology progressed, so did the television and stereo equipment departments. In 1954, Leithold Music ranked among the top 20% in volume among record stores in the United States.

Harry’s wife, Ida, began working at Leithold Music in 1917 as Ida Hefti when she was 17. Hearing that the store needed help, Ida’s aunt brought her in to apply for a job. Ida played the piano for the management and was hired. Ida worked at Leithold Music until the 1980s assisting customers with their music selections.

(excerpts from La Crosse Tribune, January 3, 1954, February 2, 1967 and July 18, 1979)

Third Generation, Roger H. Leithold


Roger started managing the family business in 1945 after returning from service in the Navy. His product specialty was acoustic pianos. In “semi-retirement” in his 80s, Roger worked a few days a week, for special promotions and displays, and as a consultant to the fourth generation.

In 1998, Roger received one of Yamaha Corporation of America’s highest honors, the Touchstone Founder’s Award. This award is reserved for a select group of individuals who have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to the piano industry and Yamaha piano sales, and have successfully impressed the value of that commitment upon their successors. Roger was the second person in the nation to receive this award.

Teresa Leithold, Roger’s wife, was a piano teacher at Leithold Music specializing in the four- to six-year-old and continued to teach until the week of her death in 2019. In 2015 she retired from First Presbyterian Church as a musician—pianist, organist, choir director—after more than 50 years of employment. As a former instructor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Campus School and public school music teacher, she taught in area schools and privately since 1956 influencing an estimated 3,000 students.

Fourth Generation, Paul Leithold and Abbie Leithold-Gerzema

As a brother and sister team, Paul and Abbie share ownership as well as management duties.

Paul is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a music degree in French Horn Performance. He oversees the Band, Orchestral, and Combo (guitar, drum, p.a.) departments. Paul performs in many professional ensembles including the classic rock dance band, Double Take, Third Charles, Crosse Section, La Crosse Jazz Orchestra, and Coulee Region Gospel Choir. Paul’s son, Steve, is also employed in the business.

Abbie is a graduate of Drake University with a music degree in Pipe Organ and Music Business. She oversees the Piano, Digital Piano and Keyboard, Print Music, and Accounts Receivable departments as well as all marketing. She leads worship at First Presbyterian Church in La Crosse and sings in UWL’s Choral Union.

Paul and Abbie have two sisters, Susan, a retired music teacher in Owatonna, Minnesota, and Ellen, an investment relations executive in Kalamazoo, Michigan. All nine of the Fifth Generation are very musical!

116-118 South Fourth Street Building History

Built in 1889 for the Tillman Brothers Furniture Block, a furniture store and mortuary.

Leithold Music Original Store

Frederick Tillman, a German immigrant, and his brother, Wilhelm, started a furniture and upholstery business in La Crosse in 1859. The building was designed by local architects Stoltze and Schick—Romanesque revival style featuring colossal round arches on the upper stories. The building was occupied by Tillmans from 1889 to 1963.

This property embodies the Romanesque Revival style common in the 1880s, when the City of La Crosse was experiencing great economic prosperity, due in a large part to the lumber industry. This building was clearly meant to be a statement since it is one of the tallest structures in the downtown. It was designed by master architects Gustav Stoltze and Hugo Schick at the height of their careers. This building is related through materials and ornamental details to the Odd Fellows Temple across the street and the E.R. Barron Department Store Building at the corner of 5th and Main. According to architectural historian Joan Rausch, the building is the “best brick interpretation of the Romanesque Revival in the commercial district of downtown La Crosse.” Corbelled brick detailing, as well as ornate carved brownstone, are still extant. The building occupies the entire site and is sited at the bend in 4th Street, which makes it highly visible for many blocks.

(Historical Analysis for Leithold Music by Barb Kooiman, 2019)

116-118 South Fourth Street becomes Leithold Music

Leithold Music moved from 221-223 Main Street on April 27, 1964.

Leithold Music Original Store

Leithold Music has operated with little change in the building since moving in 1964. This speaks to the building’s great design and complementary uses by both of the building’s owners. The basement is used as rehearsal space for the Da Capo Concert Band and has additional teaching studios. The first floor is the primary retail space for the music store, with the raised back portion used for office space. The second floor features the piano showroom in the front, with teaching studios on the remainder of the floor. The original freight elevator is still used to move pianos to and from the showroom. The third floor is utilized much the same way it was early in the Tillman Brothers occupancy. This floor has the instrument repair shop and a refinishing shop. The furniture repair shop was on this floor prior to the Tillman’s moving repair operations to the Buckle Building. The fourth, fifth floors and attic are used for storage.

(Historical Analysis for Leithold Music by Barb Kooiman, 2019)

Façade Renovations 2020-2021


As 100+ year old windows began to deteriorate, it became necessary to replace windows on both the east and west sides of the building. Instead of replacing with modern units (unlikely due to unique sizes and shapes), Paul and Abbie sought the guidance of Marcus Zettler, Preservation Architect of Zettler Design Studio, LLC. With a supporting grant from the City of La Crosse, a complete Architectural and Engineering Analysis was completed in December 2019. Complete renovation of the building was proposed. Paul and Abbie chose to begin “Phase 1” in 2020 with the help of state and federal historical tax credits. Following are selected “before” (2019) and “after” (2021) photos of the renovations.

Leithold Music Original Store

Leithold Music Original Store

Leithold Music Original Store

Leithold Music Original Store

Leithold Music Original Store

Leithold Music Original Store

Contact Us

  • Leithold Music
    116 4th St S
    La Crosse, WI 54601
    Call us now: 608.784.7555

Leithold Music's mission:

To enthusiastically help our customers enrich their lives through experiencing the joys and benefits of making music by supporting the arts in our community and schools by offering helpful, knowledgeable and sincere service in a casual, family-friendly atmosphere.