Pittsburgh's Steinway Piano Gallery to close

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

In case you missed it: The Steinway Piano Gallery, the area's sole Steinway dealer, is closing up shop. Head to the West End this weekend for good deals (?!) on some of the world's best pianos.

The Steinway Piano Gallery opened in the West End in 2012. It is part of a long lineage of Steinway dealers in Western Pennsylvania.The Steinway Piano Gallery opened in the West End in 2012. It is part of a long lineage of Steinway dealers in Western Pennsylvania. (John Heller/Post-Gazette)

Here are a few bits of information that I wasn't able to squeeze into today's story:

The Past

Stephen Karlinchak, the Post-Gazette's indispensable librarian, tracked down some of the earliest instances of Steinways in Pittsburgh.

What he found is that for almost as long as there have been Steinway pianos, there have been Steinways in Pittsburgh.

The piano builder was founded in 1853, Steinway's New York shop advertised in Pittsburgh newspapers as early as 1855, and H. Kleber & Bro. was selling them locally by 1857.

Henry Kleber had a major impact on music in Western Pennsylvania as a singer, member of the Pittsburgh Philharmonic Society, teacher and friend of/collaborator with Stephen Foster. He opened up the store "Sign of the Golden Harp" on Third Street in 1846, and his shop was the first to import pianos via canal over the Allegheny Mountains, according to the website Pittsburgh Music History.

Around the turn of the century, Steinways were sold by other shops, including Frederich's on Smithfield Street and C.C. Mellor on Wood Street, which advertised the pianos up until 1942. Mellor's, the first music store in Pittsburgh, was founded in 1831 as Smith, Peters & Company. Horne's department store in Downtown started selling Steinways by 1948, and Trombino's Piano Gallerie became the local dealer in 1986. 

So, some of the years are fuzzy, and we may be missing a store or two in there, but more or less, the timeline of local Steinway dealers is: H. Kleber & Bro. (1857-late 19th century), Frederich's (turn of the 20th century), C.C. Mellor (1910 or so), Horne's (starting around 1948-1985 or 1986), Trombino's (1986-2011), and the Steinway Piano Gallery (2012-present). 

Newspaper archives were a critical source of information on this arcane subject. How times have changed: The West End gallery advertised this weekend's liquidation via direct mail and social media.

steinway 3Steinway industry consultant Tony Thomas is running the Steinway Piano Gallery's liquidation sale Thursday-Sunday. (John Heller/Post-Gazette)

The Recent Past/The Future

Steinway & Sons has undergone significant change in recent years. It closed the iconic Beaux Arts building on West 57th Street in New York City, and a new, more technology-prone Steinway Hall on Sixth Avenue is under construction. In 2013, hedge fund manager John Paulson purchased the company. He has said that he plans to "preserve" the brand's craftsmanship and commitment to quality, while expanding into markets such as Brazil and China. 

While the U.S. remains the largest market for Steinways, China is Steinway's fastest-growing market and will "probably pass the American market" at some point, according to Anthony Gilroy, director of marketing and communications for Steinway & Sons — Americas. The company has been selling in China for about a decade, and Chinese immigrants have even provided a boon to U.S. sales, he said.

Closer to home: It seems pretty clear that there will be a factory-run showroom in Pittsburgh. Mr. Gilroy said it's possible that Steinway would find a local gallery owner, "but there's no plans that I know of to go that route at the moment."

He was optimistic about the success of a gallery in the Pittsburgh market because of the city's Cultural District and high concentration of doctors (among the company's most reliable clients). It's unclear whether the Pittsburgh store will have retail hours or be by appointment only. One important fact: "Events tend to sell more pianos than walk-ins," Mr. Gilroy said. For example, recitals are more effective than typical retail hours at bringing piano-lovers into the store — and familiarizing them with the Steinway products. That may be a clue about the direction the company will take here.

The Steinway Society of Western Pennsylvania has collaborated with the West End gallery on its young artists programs in the past, and Mr. Gilroy said the new showroom would maintain that relationship.

OK, there's always more to tell, but I think that's enough for now!


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