Piano store stresses service as economy strikes sour note

At Doug Brady Piano Co. in Hickory, music is still alive. It's just playing a little softer these days.

Business has declined a bit in the past year, says Nancy Brady, who owns the store with her husband, Doug. The phone doesn't ring quite as often. Fewer walk-in customers drop by.

“People are basically not spending a lot on pianos right now,” Brady said. “If they have one they can do some repairs on or refurbish, that's what they're doing. Or buying used.”

Piano rentals and sales of accessories, such as lamps, cleaning cloths and music stationery, are also up, she said.

New upright pianos sell for about $6,000 and higher. Grand pianos are about $10,000 and up – way up. An $80,000 Seiler grand piano – handmade of flamed mahogany, an auburn wood with a wavy grain – sits near the store's front. A local executive came in and asked questions about it recently but hasn't bought, Brady said.

Pianos are not a necessity, Brady noted. During tight times, potential customers may instead head to Wal-Mart for a cheap electronic keyboard.

But those who will accept only the real thing can still find deals. A good used upright piano sells for $1,200 to $2,000. Just the other day, Brady said, a mother came in and paid $1,300 in cash for a used piano for her son.

Right now, the Bradys are running a special on organs with the hope of selling to churches. Once they buy organs, Brady said, they'll often return for service and if they need a piano in the future.

That, she said, helps win the type of long-term loyalty that sounds very good indeed – for any business. JEN ARONOFF