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I just stumbled onto this ...


Fresno Piano will be hosting a grand finale in the form of a liquidation sale as it closes its doors after 38 years in business.

Fresno Piano is liquidating its stock of pianos at its 4254 N. Fresno Ave. showroom March 11 and 12 by appointment only, and also on March 13 from noon to 5 p.m. Fresno Piano is Central California's exclusive dealer of Steinway and Yamaha pianos.

When Fresno Piano was founded in 1973, it was one of eight retail outlets in Fresno that sold competitive products, according to a news release. Today it is the only one, soon to be no more.

Jim Fishback, Fresno Piano's president, said he leaves the business with chords of gratitude.

"We appreciate all those who have purchased from our company over the past years and the continued friendships we have made," he said in a statement.

Though Fishback couldn't be reached to comment on why the business is closing, he told The Business Journal in January 2010 that sales had fallen about 35% in the last few years. While between 10 to 15 Steinway pianos were sold there in average years starting at $50,000 a pop, only nine were sold in 2009.

He said more than half of the Steinways were sold to non-players and beginners — mostly people who purchased as an investment.

Fresno Piano traces its roots to 1973 when piano and organ dealer Sherman Clay ceased operations at the store on the corner of Ashlan Avenue and Fresno Street. Manager Don bird took over the business.

Over the years, the business, formerly Conn Organs, changed its name and traded in the organs in favor of a more focused niche in pianos. Eventually, the store began offering piano moving services while connecting customers with skilled technicians involved in tuning, repairs and restoration.

When Fishback, another former employee of Sherman Clay, took over for Bird in 2001, the store doubled its sales volume and went through a series of expansions, bringing it to its current size of 10,000 square feet with more showroom space, a concert hall, two classrooms and listening rooms.

Appointments for the liquidation sale can be made by calling (559) 222-3194.


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What a shame frown
It looks like they have a nice display.

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This is very sad news indeed. I have watched our American piano business die slowly year after year for the last 35 years.
It may never come back.

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I'm beginning to feel like the "Last Comic Standing"!



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It is sad, but you do have to ask yourself about the business model.

10,000 square feet is a lot of overhead to cover.

And selling Steinways "for investment" to non players and beginners is ridiculous. Pianos are not investments and for every customer conned into believing this I would expect that 10 more are put off - on the basis that most people who can afford one are not taken in by the investment nonsense.

Eventually the industry model will either change fundamentally, or reach equilibrium with only a small number of dealers surviving.



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This closing is not really about pianos or the piano industry. Fresno is an agricultural town in the Central Valley of California. It has been economically devastated by the housing bust and by the Federal government's decision to restrict the amount of water available to farms to save the Delta smelt (a little fish).

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The tragic closure of this dealership is certainly do to the economic, housing and cultural conditions in the US NOT because of us dealers allegedly shoving the thought of pianos being a replacement for your 401k investments..

We, Steinway dealers, sell Steinway to all types of people for all types of reasons.. from teachers who choose to put such a priority on their instrument that they choose to spend more on a piano than they did on their house!!! to affluent non musical clients who simply appreciate and enjoy quality, longevity and.. yes.. the investment qualities that are inherent with Steinway like products.

Just last week a VERY affluent, VERY intelligent business man purchased a restored 9ft "D" from me. I didn't bring up the investment benefits of owning a Steinway.. he did. As with all Steinway owners; That wasn't the only reason he purchased the piano but it was certainly a big factor for HIM. He said he was tired of watching his paper money continue to be worth less and less and has decided to start purchasing tangible items of quality and value, like a Steinway, instead.

Here are some FACTS:

The piano he purchased sold new for $6,300 in 1947. After adjusting for inflation that amount is worth $59,861.45 in todays dollars. A new Steinway "D" sells for $130,000. Lets just say he spent more than $60,000 for his piano.. this may not fit the definition of 'investment' for YOU.. but after 65 years of use, 3 owners and another lifetime of use and appreciation in store for this instrument.. It certainly does for me and the new owner of this piano.

At any rate.. That is a truly beautiful showroom and a real loss to our dealer network. = /




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... as for the rest of us without the space (for a second grand that is), we can use other investment instruments to keep up with inflation...

I do agree that if you're going to lose money to the market, you may as well have bought something (expensive, like a piano).

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Originally Posted by Rod Verhnjak
What a shame.
It looks like they have a nice display.


Yes, they are (were) a great store with a nice display! Would stop by when in Fresno. Very nice staff.

Unfortunately the downside is that they are (were)located in a cultural wasteland a.k.a California's Central Valley. (If you haven't been there read Kerouac's On the Road as it really hasn't changed that much since he wrote it.) Still, Fresno might be a tad better than Stockton despite the tired U.of the Pacific and its dreary, drab, paint-pealing concert hall.

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Well, already the Steinway guy launches in with the spurious investment argument. Sure, you say you didn't "sell" the investment, but you didn't disabuse him of this nonsense either.

The debate has been argued many times and it is too tedious to repeat it here.

I Have nothing against Steinway - good pianos and I have one. I just think some of the sales tactics adopted by some dealers are blatantly misleading.

The real issue is: bad location / excessive floor space and overhead / weak economy / poor industry model for today's market.


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It's not really an argument.. I see it as fact. You can dismiss it as 'spurious' and call me or other dealers 'blatantly misleading' if you like. I believe what I say because I see it everyday where I work.. when I see a 25 year old "M" sell at our store for 4 times what it sold for originally 'I' see that as an investment.. sorry?.. I guess our definition of investment differs!

regardless.. I'm glad you enjoy your Steinway products!


EDIT:
Well.. I knew I should have double checked my memory in regard to the 'facts' lol.. I looked up the piano described before and it was a 1978 Steinway M e/s. at that time period the full retail price was somewhere around $7,500. So no it was not 25 years old.. rather, it was 33 years old. Regardless it did sell just at 4 times the original purchase price. I'm signed off on this subject.. Happy Selling and Buying to all!



Last edited by Diaphragmatic; 03/18/11 10:08 AM.

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Originally Posted by Diaphragmatic
when I see a 25 year old "M" sell at our store for 4 times what it sold for originally 'I' see that as an investment.. sorry?.. I guess our definition of investment differs!



You sold a 25 year old Steinway "M" for over $70,000 confused

And I see you changed your 5x to 4x the price that would have made the "M" over $90,000 shocked


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I can imagine if you sell a piano that is 25 years old for five times its original price, it is very ... fulfilling. Add to that, the tunings (purchased from the same store) and the repairs\maintenance (purchased from the same store) ... heck, I should stop playing and get into the used piano business - it's looking more and more attractive!



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I have a question for Diaphragmatic: what is a "Steinway like" product?

In terms of investment, let's look at the figures with which Diaphragmatic supplied us. Piano sells new for $6300 in 1947, which is close to $60,000 in today's dollars. Thus, if the piano were worth $60,000 today, it would not have appreciated in value in any way at all since its purchase in $6300; it is worth the same amount today as it was then.

But in order to ascertain the appreciation in any item, we must add in the costs of possessing it. So we need to add in all maintenance costs, including tunings, plus the full cost of restoring the piano (Diaphragmatic did say the piano was restored, and may have been restored more than once), plus the cost of any transporting of the piano on whatever wanderings it may have had prior to the new buyer purchasing it. If it was damaged in the past, we need to add the cost of repairs in, too. Finally, in terms of the piano's true cost, we should add in what Diaphragmatic paid to get it for the purpose of restoration and resale.

I don't think that the original owner of the piano would have made money if s/he had kept it and then sold it to the current purchaser. The resale price would have to be a whole lot more than $60,000 for the piano to represent a real investment. Indeed, in order to repay the original purchase price, without more, the resale would have to generate $53,700 in profit. That means that the resale price would have to be $53,700 plus all the costs of ownership listed above plus the original purchase price in order for the original buyer just to break even today.

Incidentally, to try to forestall charge of bashing Steinways, I have nothing against Steinways as such. I regularly play a wonderful Hamburg Steinway O, and there are many terrific Steinways. What I do object to is the the investment rhetoric, which actually has nothing to do with the pianos. The fact that a piano is not an investment--the fact that its real value is not going to increase once it is purchased--is not a good reason not to buy it. Nor is investment potential (in my view) a good reason to buy it, either.

But there we are. Nothing anyone says on this Forum is going to stop Steinway dealers from claiming that their pianos are investments. I think that it may be this very imperviousness to the criticisms of investment rhetoric that inspires the effort by others to demonstrate its weaknesses.


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The real issue is: bad location / excessive floor space and overhead / weak economy / poor industry model for today's market.


Adrian,

It's easy to forecast the past and stomp on a corpse. It's unfortunate really that you couldn't have stopped by Fresno Piano a couple of years ago during a jaunt through California's Central Valley. You could have tipped them off. (I assume you must have an intimate knowledge of the place from the precision of your analysis here.) grin

The store sold Yamaha too,so it's not like the staff were hanging around day after day waiting for someone looking for an investment alternative to grain futures and pork bellies.

I think the issues of the depressed valley economy, the irrigation dispute, and the unimportance of pianos for most folks are all legit, but there's something else. You can't really do well in California anymore selling pianos without the help of the Asian American community. They don't relocate to places like Fresno unless they absolutely have to.


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Originally Posted by Diaphragmatic
Here are some FACTS:

The piano he purchased sold new for $6,300 in 1947. After adjusting for inflation that amount is worth $59,861.45 in todays dollars. A new Steinway "D" sells for $130,000. Lets just say he spent more than $60,000 for his piano.. this may not fit the definition of 'investment' for YOU.. but after 65 years of use, 3 owners and another lifetime of use and appreciation in store for this instrument.. It certainly does for me and the new owner of this piano.


OK, let's take Rank Piano Amateur's accurate but garbled, verbosely tiring argument and make it manageable:

You could make the same argument for beans, bread, pencils, Cadillacs or any other commodity adjusting for inflation, the costs of good sold, and other economic variables.

BUT the definition of an investment is that an item appreciates over time, which is not equal to being more expensive over time when purchased new. A piano depreciates after purchase which does not qualify it as an investment, by definition.

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Amant: Congratulations for making it through my tiring post. Sorry to have wearied you.

You underestimate the persistence of the Steinway-as-good-investment types. I agree that a good investment appreciates in real value over time, in a way that beats inflation (at a minimun).

Of course, a bad investment will not appreciate in real value. I guess Steinways, Cadillacs, etc., can still be investments, but they are bad ones. To say nothing of pencils.

We are only talking about economic investments here, as are Steinway dealers pushing their pianos. In terms of an investment in happiness, life style, and general all-around good feeling, Steinways (like all other pianos) can be GREAT investments. Just don't expect a profit that can be measured in dollars.

My two cents.


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Originally Posted by Diaphragmatic


Here are some FACTS:

The piano he purchased sold new for $6,300 in 1947. After adjusting for inflation that amount is worth $59,861.45 in todays dollars. A new Steinway "D" sells for $130,000. Lets just say he spent more than $60,000 for his piano.. this may not fit the definition of 'investment' for YOU.. but after 65 years of use, 3 owners and another lifetime of use and appreciation in store for this instrument.. It certainly does for me and the new owner of this piano.

At any rate.. That is a truly beautiful showroom and a real loss to our dealer network. = /


Had one put that $6300 in a simple savings acount, what would it be worth today? How much more (or less) than the street value of the Steinway?

[Ok math geniuses, get to work!]

The real Return on Investment from a piano are the benefits of its use.


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1) Amant: Congratulations for making it through my tiring post. Sorry to have wearied you. - Sure, that why you're a Rank Economics Amateur laugh

2) You underestimate the persistence of the Steinway-as-good-investment types. I agree that a good investment appreciates in real value over time, in a way that beats inflation (at a minimun). - Not so! By definition, an investment just has to appreciate, period. It does not have to be based on beating inflation or any other metric.

3) Of course, a bad investment will not appreciate in real value. I guess Steinways, Cadillacs, etc., can still be investments, but they are bad ones. To say nothing of pencils. –
(a) a bad investment can appreciate in real value but this is where comparative metrics play a role by determing what is good and what is bad,
(b)Steinways and Caddy's can selectively be good investments. In these cases the investment value is due to an event related to the item and which may have changed the item rather than the pristine item in-itself; e.g., a piano owned by Elvis, a Caddy where JFK boffed Marilyn in the back seat, a pencil with Twain’s teeth marks, etc.


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Originally Posted by Steve Cohen
Originally Posted by Diaphragmatic


Here are some FACTS:

The piano he purchased sold new for $6,300 in 1947. After adjusting for inflation that amount is worth $59,861.45 in todays dollars. A new Steinway "D" sells for $130,000. Lets just say he spent more than $60,000 for his piano.. this may not fit the definition of 'investment' for YOU.. but after 65 years of use, 3 owners and another lifetime of use and appreciation in store for this instrument.. It certainly does for me and the new owner of this piano.

At any rate.. That is a truly beautiful showroom and a real loss to our dealer network. = /


Had one put that $6300 in a simple savings acount, what would it be worth today? How much more (or less) than the street value of the Steinway?

[Ok math geniuses, get to work!]

The real Return on Investment from a piano are the benefits of its use.


Yes, and had one put that $6300 in the Berkshire Hathaway IPO, (instead of a simple savings account) what would it be worth today? If you're going to talk intelligently about economics then you're going to have to talk about economic substitutes and alternative investments to maximize ROI.

P.S., a math genius at work .... The Berkshire investment is worth much more (in multiples of hundreds) than the street value of the Steinway.

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