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Century Club: Celebrating MI Retailers Who Made it to the 100 Year Mark

by Victoria Wasylak • in
  • Features
• Created: May 11, 2017

Last year, MMR highlighted some of the oldest musical instrument suppliers in the country, noting the history of the brands which have passed the 100-year mark.

This year, MMR is concentrating on musical instrument dealers who can boast a century (or more!) of service and sales to their communities.


Ludwig van Beethoven passes away in March.


Denton, Cottier & Daniels

Getzville, New York

Only one store can boast being the oldest running Steinway dealer on the planet, and that’s Denton, Cottier & Daniels. Established in 1827, the store’s founder James D. Sheppard brought the first piano to western New York up the Erie Canal on a mule-drawn boat.

Hugh Cottier and Robert Denton joined as partners in the mid- 1800s, and William Daniels was made the third partner in 1887.

Jim Trimper, Sr., the current president and CEO of the company, initially joined the company in 1973 as general manager. Ten years down the line, he bought all four stores with his business partner Hugh Murphy, nabbing locations in Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany, and Rochester. When Trimper, Sr. and Murphy split in 1993, Trimper, Sr. kept the Rochester and Buffalo locations. The old Syracuse and Albany locations went to Murphy, who renamed them Clark Music (both locations are now closed).

His daughter Michelle Trimper, co-vice president of the company, says that her father remains as active as ever.

“My father is still here every day. The first question [people ask] is ‘is he retiring? Is he going to retire?” I don’t think so and we don’t want him to. We love having him here – he’s great,” Trimper says.

“We try to make our store a place of music and culture. We host recitals. We host things that benefit art and charities. We try to make it kind of a cultural center for the community, besides just selling pianos and having piano lessons,” Trimper notes. “We want to do even more of that than we are doing now.”


Failure of the potato crop in Ireland leads to famine and mass emigration to the United States… The U.S. declares war on Mexico… America annexes New Mexico and California


Altenburg Piano House

Elizabeth, New Jersey

Frederic Altenburg first established this business in Bremen Germany before immigrating to the U.S. in 1890 and relocating the Altenburg Piano House to NYC. By 1906, the company had relocated to Elizabeth, New Jersey – where it remains to this day. Altenburg Piano House is the oldest family-run piano retailer in the country.



Abraham Lincoln is elected president… South Carolina secedes from the Union… The first recorded baseball game is played in San Francisco.


M. Steinert & Sons

Boston, Massachusetts

Founded in Athens, Georgia by Morris Steinert, Steinert found that he quickly had to relocate the store to New Haven, Connecticut – where was wife was from – as a result of the Civil War. The stores grew throughout New England, and at one point, the company has 42 affiliated stores and two factories making pianos in Leominster, Massachusetts.

“All of that kind of imploded in the ‘30s in the Depression,” says current president Paul Murphy. “We euphemistically expanded into three stores, and today we have three locations.” The Murphy family integrated with the Steinert family when Paul’s grandfather came to work at the store at the age of 16 to do the company’s bookkeeping in 1897. Eventually he became the company’s treasurer, and then bought the company in 1934. Paul started working at M. Steinert and Sons in 1969, and his son Brendan marks the fourth generation of Murphys at the company. Tack on the three previous generations of Steinert, and the company actually spans seven generations.



Richard Strauss is born in Munich, Germany… Louis Pasteur invents pasteurization… General William T. Sherman captures Atlanta on September 2nd – three years into the U.S. Civil War


Steinway Hall

New York, New York

The first retail operation for Steinway & Sons (founded in 1853) was on 14th Street in New York City, where it remained until 1925 when the iconic Steinway Hall opened its doors on 57th Street, where it remained until 2016. The current Steinway Hall is located at 1133 Avenue of the Americas.



Under Kaiser Wilhelm I, the German Empire is proclaimed… the Great Chicago Fire results in over 250 deaths and $196 million in damage


Paige’s Music

Indianapolis, Indiana



Crédit Mobilier scandal erupts, implicating several members of Congress… Sir Arthur Sullivan’s “Guinevere” is one of the most popular songs of the year


Meyer Music

Grand Rapids, Michigan



Construction of the Panama Canal begins… The first payphone is installed… NYC’s Broadway is lit by electricity, becoming known as “The Great White Way”


Southern California Music Company

Glendale, California



Property damage due to a March blizzard in the Northeast exceeds $25 million, with many lives lost… Jack the Ripper terrorizes London… Irving Berlin is born in Eastern Russia


Volkwein’s Music

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The origins of Volkwein’s Music started in Bechtel Music House, where Rudolph and Jacob Volkwein started working in 1888. Things escalated quickly as Rudolph Volkwein was promoted to manager by 1895, and both brothers purchased the store in 1905. From there, the store moved to Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Volkwein’s Music enjoyed plenty of growth in the first half of the 1900s, despite the economical hardships of the Depression and

both World Wars. In the 1930s, the store stopped selling pianos so they could focus on other musical instruments, and after World War II, the company’s mail order business began to boom. A sudden boost in marching band and concert band programs in schools didn’t hurt business, either. Rudolph’s sons Carl. R. and Walter also joined the business, while Carl’s son Carl W. joined the family business in 1960. By 1979, Carl W. and Nunzio C. Dilanni were managing the store, and the Dilanni family joined the business in the 1980s. The store moved one more time in 1990 to the RIDC Park West near Pittsburgh International Airport, Volkwein’s current location.



The Sherman Antitrust Act is signed into law, prohibiting commercial monopolies… In reporting the results of the annual census, the Census Bureau declares that the West has been settled and the frontier is closed


Conrad Music Service

Corydon, Indiana



The diesel engine is patented… Len Spencer scores three number- one hit tunes this year: “The Old Folks at Home,” Ta-Ra-Ra-Doom Der E,” and “Near It”


Sarver’s Music

Sidney, Ohio



The first modern Olympic Games are held in Athens, Greece… Alfred Nobel’s will establishes prizes for achievements furthering peace, literature, and science… Vess Ossman’s “A Hot Time on the Levee” is a popular tune


Schmitt Music

When Paul A. Schmitt, a first-generation German immigrant, moved his family to Minneapolis in 1890, he probably didn’t realize his move would cause a gigantic chain reaction, resulting in fourteen stores in nine different states. Initially responsible for running the sheet music department of The Century Piano Company, Schmitt ended up buying the department and expanding his line to include instruments and accessories in 1896. As the store expanded, Schmitt moved the store several times to larger locations in downtown Minneapolis. Paul’s son Robert A. Schmitt joined the company in 1930, and became president in 1935. Other members of the Schmitt family hopped aboard over time, including grandson Robert P. Schmitt, who became president in 1957, and Doug and Tom Schmitt, Robert P.’s two sons. During this time period, Schmitt Music began to grow exponentially, stores beginning to pop up in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and upper Midwest.Fast forward to founder Paul. A Schmitt’s great-grandson, Tom. As Tom Schmitt prepared to graduate from the University of Minnesota, he had three options laid before him: go to law school, go to business school, or join the family company. When his dad “made him an offer he couldn’t refuse,” he started working in the basement of Schmitt Music’s downtown Minneapolis store. “The family business seemed like the most fun and the best opportunity – and, of course, I was really excited by the thought of being part of our family’s business history and legacy,” Schmitt says.

“Today, the company focuses on band, orchestra, music education and pianos, teaches about 4,000 students per week, helps around 15,000 students start the band or orchestra every year, and employs about 175 FTE’s,” Schmitt notes. Most recently, Schmitt Music can boast not four, but five generations of Schmitt blood in the company’s history, having added Tom’s son Peter and nephew Ted to the roster.



A major hurricane hits Galveston, Texas, leaving an estimated 7,000-plus dead… The Montreal Shamrocks win hockey’s Stanley Cup… The Hayden Quartet scores a hit with “Because”


Union Music

Worcester, Massachusetts

Founder Samuel Cashner started the store in Worcester, Massachusetts as a pawn shop – a commodity that was far more common at the time. From there, the company was handed down to his son Leon Kamp, and then to current owner and president Carl Kamp. In the store’s 117-year history, it’s only moved twice: from 169 Front Street to Main Street, and to its current location at 142 Southbridge Street.

Technically, store manager Sean Jyringi isn’t a part of the Union Music bloodline, but if you look back at his timeline with the company, it certainly doesn’t seem that way. Jyringi, now 28, started working at Union Music when he was only 20 years old, but his history with the Worcester, Massachusetts music store goes back much further than that.

“I’ve known Carl since I first came in here when I was 12 or 13. [He’s a] great guy – one of the best guys I know. I’d say that most people who know Carl or have worked for Carl would say the same thing. Carl’s been around the city,” Jyringi says.



Queen Victoria’s nearly 64-year reign comes to an end as the monarch passes away… Theodore Roosevelt is sworn in as president… “Tell Me, Pretty Maiden” is a number-one hit for tenor Harry MacConough


Brook Mays Music Co.

Dallas, Texas

Opened by its namesake in August of 1901, Brook Mays Music Company quickly became the largest piano dealership in the Dallas area. By the 1940s the business added sheet music, organs, and band instruments and by the ‘50s Brook Mays was the largest supplier of band instruments to schools in the southern U.S. In the summer of 2006, Brook Mays Music Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, though in December of that year a new group began operating under the Brook Mays name. Brook Mays Music currently fields eight retail locations.



The Boston Red Sox triumph over Pittsburgh in the first-ever World Series… The Wright Brothers complete the first controlled, sustained flight in heavier-than-air aircraft at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina… Billy Murray enjoys massive success with his song, “Bedelia”


Griggs Music

Davenport, Iowa

The first Griggs Music House was located downtown Davenport. The company quickly expanded from mainly just pianos to include other products from the music industry in their first 30-40 years, causing Griggs to move the store to a larger location in Davenport, and renamed the store the Arthur P. Griggs Piano Company. By the 1950s, the company was a true “full line” store and added an extensive selection of radios and records during this time period.

Following the second World War, Griggs Music continued to expand, but Arthur was forced to retire after he suffered a stroke. His children Arthur W. Griggs and Charlotte Griggs took over, followed by Griggs’ son-in-law, Jim Partridge, who initially came to work for the company in 1966 to focus on building the School Music Department. Current president Steve Judge entered the picture around 1975, when he stopped by the store to buy a guitar strap he claims “he didn’t really need.” When asked if he knew anyone who would want to work for them, Judge was raised his hand and was hired at age 18. From there, his responsibilities slowly piled up over the years until he became a minority stock holder in 1988 and president in 1998.

“When I read the history of Griggs Music several key things stand out,” Judge says. “The company’s owners have always had very strong principles. The Griggs family stressed doing the right thing, honesty, integrity and to always focus on the interests of the customer. It’s easy to say, but in my 42 years here I can say that the family lived these principles on a day-to-day basis and we have strived to carry on this tradition.”

“We had a great time celebrating our 100th anniversary in 2003 and are beginning the countdown to our 125th celebration in 2028!” Judge says.


Herter Music Center

Bay City, Michigan

If you were to go back 100 years scour Bay City, Michigan for Herter Music Center, you’d never find it. Instead, Hardy Music would have greeted you. Founded in 1903, Hardy Music didn’t take on the name Herter Music Center until Phillip Herter purchased it in 1951. Phillip and his wife June ran the store for many years until their retirement when their children Fred Herter and Deborah Downing took over. In 2017, Herter Music Center is run by Natalie Martinez and Heather Leser, both grandchildren of Phillip Herter. Martinez, who initially worked at the store in high school, is now president of Herter Music Center. She says that even after college and working in larger corporations, she wanted to return to her roots and continue her family’s tradition.

Under Martinez’s time as president, Herter Music Center consolidated from two stores to one, moving their inventory in the Saginaw Township store to the Bay City location in 2012.



The Russo-Japanese War begins… NYC’s subway opens… Billy Murray again tops the charts, with both “Alexander” and “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis”


Case Brothers

Spartanburg, South Carolina



An earthquake in San Francisco kills over 500… It was Chicago vs. Chicago in the World Series, with the White Sox defeating the Cubs 4-2… Henry Burr’s “Love Me and the World is Mine” tops the charts for seven weeks


Baxter Northup Music Co.

Sherman Oaks, California

Northrop is the oldest continuously operating MI outlet in the greater Los Angeles market. The original store opened in L.A. in 1906 where it remained until the end of WWII. In 1947, the company moved to the San Fernando Valley and then moved once again to Ventura Boulevard in 1951. The store has been at its current location since 1993.



William Howard Taft is inaugurated as the nation’s 27th president… The NAACP is founded… Ada Jones and Billy Murray scored the year’s biggest hit with “Shine On, Harvest Moon”


Poppler’s Music

Grand Forks, North Dakota



The Mexican Revolution begins… Thomas Edison introduces the kinetophone and, with it, the era of “talking pictures”… Ada Jones & American Quartet sit atop the singles charts with “Call Me Up Some Rainy Afternoon”


McClellan Music House

Buffalo, New York


O. DiBella Music

Bergenfield, New Jersey

In the early 1900s, Italian immigrant Onofrio DiBella started out in America by teaching mandolin lessons and sweeping the floor of his uncle’s barbershop. Something he quickly noticed in the community, however, was that musicians weren’t able to find any printed music from Italy in the United States. As a result, he began to import the sheet music from his home country and eventually formed a publishing business that focused on festival band arrangement and sheet music for mandolin, guitar, and accordion. In 1924, DiBella quickly shifted gears to music retail when the genre of music started to wane in popularity. Onofrio’s son Michael joined the store’s team around 1936. That same versatility is exactly what current owner Mike DiBella attributes the company’s steadfast longevity to.

“The company started out as a publishing company of Italian-style festival music and wedding music, and evolved to retail, and evolved to a bunch of different aspects to retail, involved the school music market, and lately evolved to online sales,” DiBella says.

As for continuing the line, O.DiBella Music shouldn’t have any issues: Mike DiBella has four children, along with plenty of nieces and nephews, so getting the store to the fourth generation shouldn’t be much of an issue. “I am sure my grandfather couldn’t have possibly dreamed of any of this,” DiBella says.


Reynalds Music House

Pensacola, Florida


Shreveport Music Company

Shreveport, Louisiana

Shreveport Music first made its name by selling coin-operated pianos crafted by the Seeburg Piano Company. Used pianos entered the mix during the Great Depression with new pianos coming on board after World War II. Guitars were added in the early ‘70s and today the company carries amplifiers, basses, drums, guitars, keyboards, and more.



The Boston Red Sox beat the New York Giants in the World Series… The Titanic sinks in the North Atlantic after a collision with an iceberg…


Hoover Music Company

Springfield, Missouri


Jordan Kitts Music

Rockville, Maryland

Jordan Kitts was founded by Arthur Jordan and Homer Kitts in 1912, and since then, the company’s footprint has been all over the United States. The company remained in the original owners’ families for about 60 years before Bill McCormick took over in 1971. He would go on to serve as the company’s president until 2007.

Chris Syllaba and business partner Ray Fugere currently run Jordan Kitts Music, and in the store’s 105-year history, are only the third owners of the company. Syllaba, who got involved as a salesperson in the 1980s, thrust himself up the ladder until he and Fugere took over the company in 2011.

“The piano industry has changed dramatically in the 30+ years that I’ve been in the business. Primarily the market has gotten smaller with some of the dollars shifting to cheaper digitals and keyboards,” Syllaba says.

In their 105-year history, the stats have stacked up; Jordan Kitts has sold over 250,000 pianos since 1912 and teaches 40,000 piano lessons annually.


Holloway’s Music Center

Monroe, North Carolina



The Boston Red Sox defeat Brooklyn in the World Series… Ireland’s Easter Rebellion is suppressed by the British… Charlie Chaplin signs with Mutual Studios for an unheard-of $10,000 a week.


Bensberg Pro Audiovisual

Camden, Arkansas



The U.S. deploys combat troops to France as the country enters World War I… A global influenza pandemic begins (20 million would die by 1920)… The Romanov’s Winter Palace is seized and the government overthrown in the Russian October Revolution… The Chicago White Sox (later termed “Black Sox” due to game-fixing) defeat the New York Giants in the World Series


Kuyper’s Music

Pella, Iowa







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