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Gilroy
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December 6, 2022

Sean Anthony’s Refinishing owner retires after more than four decades

Sean Anthony Geiger, drill in hand, climbed up a ladder to take down a sign that had been fastened to a Church Street building for 35 years.

However, Geiger struggled to remove the screws in the weathered sign with the drill, as they had become too embedded to budge after so many decades. His son, Austin, took a stab at it but was unsuccessful.

So, Geiger grabbed a crowbar, and, wedging it between the building and sign, made one powerful pull. With a loud crack, the sign rolled off the building like a piece of butter, wood chips and screws falling to the ground.

At that moment, after an embrace between father and son, Sean Anthony’s Refinishing closed up shop May 13 after more than four decades.

Geiger said he broke the news of his retirement to his customers months ago, but they wanted to hear none of it.

“When I called and said, ‘I’m retiring, I’m closing up shop,’ they said, ‘You can’t do that, what am I going to do?’” Geiger said. “The reality is, I’m not the only guy in the area that does refinishing. You have to go research them … I’m sorry. All of them are sorry to see me go.”

As the name of his business implies, Geiger and his crew have refinished countless pieces of furniture, pianos, cabinets, church pews and any and all things made out of wood. Numerous Gilroyans, as well as those throughout the region, have taken their items to Sean Anthony’s for refinishing.

The crew has also worked on easily more than 3,000 pianos and 1,000 kitchens, Austin said, even staying in hotels for weeks on end for jobs that are far from home.

It specializes in refinishing pianos, with various area symphonies among its customers, and even completed a red piano for a Google facility.

One of the hardest jobs over the years was also one of the smallest: Geiger and his crew once reattached a broken hoof on a life-sized ceramic goat.

And the final project? Refinishing a Fender bass guitar Geiger rediscovered while cleaning out his 8505 Church St. shop.

Geiger got his first job as a refinisher in Campbell in the 1970s. But when a recession hit, Geiger was laid off.

“I couldn’t find a job, I had no money, so I decided, I should start my own business,” he said.

Geiger rented out a one-car garage in Campbell, where Sean Anthony’s Refinishing was born. After a few years there, Geiger and his family moved to Gilroy in 1983, and relocated the business to Swanston Lane before moving it to its final location in 1987.

Sean Anthony Geiger Austin Sean Anthony's Refinishing
Sean Anthony Geiger (left) and his son Austin take down the last pieces of the sign at 8505 Church St. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

Geiger said the refinishing industry is on the decline, fueled by rising costs, stricter regulations and the throwaway culture that defines the current generation.

The labor-intensive line of work frequently resulted in 60- to 70-hour weeks, he said, adding that there used to be a healthy amount of refinishers in Gilroy, but now that number is dwindling in the region.

Geiger said he’s had about 15 different people work for him throughout his career, and is proud of the fact that many went on to open their own businesses.

“It’s been great to help people move up and become great citizens and hard workers,” he said.

Austin Geiger has worked for his father for the past 17 years, as manager of the shop and office. He praised his father for being supportive in his other endeavors, allowing him to also work as a musician.

“He’s the hardest-working person I know,” Austin said. “It’s been a great thing for me. He’s always been super supportive. I’ve been able to hang out with my dad all these years and also have the life I wanted.”

Family is the true story behind Sean Anthony’s Refinishing, Geiger said. He thanked his wife Cat Tucker, a manager at Applied Materials and former longtime Gilroy City Councilmember, for her support.

“My job was labor intensive with a low profit margin,” Geiger said. “In order for me to continue to do my business, buy a house, raise and put two kids through college, I could not have done that without my wife Cat Tucker working hard at her career. Without her, I could not have ever done this.”

Being there for his family will continue on in retirement. Geiger said he plans on remodeling his home’s bathroom, and helping his children with projects around their homes. He also wants to restore his 1959 MGA for the second time, and perhaps rehabilitate a piano.

“I plan to do it all at a very slow pace while enjoying myself,” he said. “Maybe take a trip or two. Just enjoy life.”

Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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