Detroit Free Press - Surviving and thriving

June 05, 2023

Detroit Free Press  - Surviving and thriving

By Columnist Neal Rubin, Detroit Free Press, USA Today Network. 

The Piano Place sits in a rectangular tan building on Maple Road that also houses a printing firm and a company that creates audio visual systems for boardrooms. 

It's unusual for piano stores in that it still sells more pianos than digital keyboards and it's expanding, turning a former embroidery shop into a recital room. 

"We're doing pretty well" says office manager and salesman Scott Blackett, 66, "because there's not that many dealers left." 

Store manager Grant Wolach used to own one of the competitors, Piano Works, in Ferndale. Then his landlord died and the building was sold. Wolach, 74, remembers Grinnell Brothers building pianos in Holly, warehousing them near Tiger Stadium and opening more than 40 stores in Michigan and Ontario, with an outlet in every major mall. 

The warehouse is now lofts, the stadium was torn down and Grinnell, according to local historian, Dan Austin, went bankrupt three times before it liquidated. 

In the glory days, Wolach says, there were more than 400 piano manufacturers in the United States. Now there's Steinway & Sons, Charles Walter and Mason & Hamlin. 

Go back to 1905 and there were more pianos and organs in the U.S. than bathtubs, says American Heritage magazine, but that was before the Model T, radios, movies, phonographs, the internet, video games and the $879 Casio keyboard on which Blackett almost absent-mindedly plays a one-handed bass riff. 

It sounds fine. 

The he sits down at an Italian-made Fazioli 9-foot grand piano, yours for $267,000, and it's majestic. 

Prices and sounds are available at most any point between the Casio and one of the only 140 Faziolis manufactured each year. 

To Taylor's surprise, the price tag and receipt for the Estey were in the piano bench last week, atop a stack of sheet music. In 2023 dollars, it cost $5,460. 

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