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Steinway Hall in Akron moving to former motorcycle dealership in Boston Heights

Posted By: Catherine Good | Posted on: 08-02-2013

The stately grand pianos at Steinway Hall are getting a new home — at a former Harley-Davidson dealership in Boston Heights.

It’s an unusual pairing, but one that puts together two of the most notable American-made brands, said Ted Good, president and chief executive officer of Steinway Hall, Northeast Ohio’s exclusive dealer of the high-end pianos.

Steinway Hall at Buchtel Avenue and East Market Street has been at its current location since 1989. The company traces its roots to the former Grecni Music in South Akron, which was founded in 1945. Good started working at the store in 1969 and bought it in 1978 after the business had been moved to the Chapel Hill area.

Catherine Good Brulport, who serves as vice president, chief operating and financial officer of the company, said for years, her father always wanted a store on state Route 8 and he wanted a Harley.

“The only thing I didn’t get out of the deal is a motorcycle,” Ted Good quipped.

Asked about the cross-section of customers who might want a Steinway piano and a Harley motor­cycle, Good said, “I’m happy there’s a ton [of potential buyers for both].”
The move north was precipitated by the closing of the company’s Cleveland-area Mattlin-Hyde Piano Co. store in Lyndhurst after the landlord sold the building they had leased. The company had two showrooms — one in Akron and one in the Cleveland area and a rented warehouse in South Akron. Good said he’s always wanted to be under one roof in a more centralized location.

In addition to selling pianos, the staff of eight at Steinway Hall arrange logistics and prepare Steinways at Northeast Ohio venues for elite performers coming to the area.
Often, an artist will come to Steinway Hall to practice.

In recent years, Emmanuel Ax came to Steinway Hall’s upstairs recital hall to have a quiet place to practice before a performance with the Tuesday Musical Club.
Around the first floor of the mansion, pianos are displayed.

“This is a neat place and the pianos look remarkable in here,” Brulport said. “It looks like a living room — not everyone’s living room.”

While Brulport and Good don’t play piano themselves — Brulport took lessons when she was young and wished she would have stuck to it — they are still very musical. Good owns and operates the T.S. Good Church Organ Co., which includes a role in designing new organs.

The 37-room mansion and carriage house was built in 1906 near the University of Akron and was the home of Akron industrialist Byron W. Robinson. Good bought the property for $210,000 in 1989.

Good received the first license from Steinway outside of New York to name his building Steinway Hall. It is only one of three with such a name in the United States and the company is not giving permission anymore, Brulport said. There are Steinway Halls in London and Hamburg, Germany.

Good began focusing on Steinway pianos in 1989, dropping other brands and band instruments. The company also sells used pianos of all brands and digital pianos.

“We sell a lot of pianos to people who can’t live without our pianos,” Good said. Customers include residents who want a Steinway in their home and symphonies, universities and colleges. There are 1,700 to 1,800 “Steinway artists” throughout the world, he said.

“They have to have our product” when they perform, he said.

Upright Steinways start at $25,000 and grand pianos start at $55,00, though most Steinways on concert stages are $150,000 and custom pianos can be $400,000 to $500,000.

Steinway also has two more affordable brands that Good offers — Boston pianos sell for $7,000 to $45,000 and Essex pianos are $5,000 to $20,000.
While the Chinese market is booming, Good said Northeast Ohio is popular for Steinways.

“We have more here than anywhere outside of New York City,” Good said. The company solely sells pianos. Service technicians are independent contractors.
“We have piano teachers who will buy the Steinway before they buy a house or food,” Good said.

Steinway pianos are also good investments, appreciating in value after 20 years and lasting up to 100 years. Some customers buy Steinways for their homes, even though they don’t play piano. Modern technology allows a computerized playing system that runs off an iPhone and the piano can be played with recordings of famous artists.

Site for sale
Good is putting the Akron Steinway Hall location up for sale for $950,000.

“We’ll hang on to it until we find the right buyer,” Good said of the mansion.

“We killed ourselves from getting it torn down,” Good said of the house when he first purchased it.

Good said when he took possession, it had been in disrepair and pipes had burst, causing ceilings to cave in.

“We dried out the house and put new ceilings in and cleaned. The thing is just so strong,” Good said of the house’s structure.
Still, while the house is in “incredible shape,” he said, “cosmetically, it needs work, no questions.

“We want the next buyer to preserve it and restore it. It would be a wonderful law office. At times, I’ve dreamed of it being a center for all performing arts offices.”
There currently are some performing arts offices in the mansion, which at one point housed a University of Akron fraternity. The Summit Choral Society has offices in the house and will remain as long as the house is still owned by Good, he said.

Good said he’s also open to leasing the building and perhaps partnering with someone on a creative idea. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Good said he’s found out that he could have qualified for special grants for the house, so the new owner could do the same.

Is there a possibility of the mansion being torn down? Good said if someone made an offer he couldn’t refuse, he might have to consider it. “We’d like to be real careful. It’s the last [mansion] here on this side of town.”

The parcel at 715 East Buchtel Avenue has 2½ acres with two buildings — the main mansion and a carriage house.
R.G. Smith Realty of Akron will market the property.

Next generation

Brulport is the only child of Ted and Teresa Good. Teresa is the first woman president of the Cleveland International Piano Competition. Brulport didn’t plan on joining her father in the family business.

Ten years ago, she needed one more class at the University of Akron to finish her degree in marketing and sales. She wanted to be a high-end fashion buyer or work in marketing or sales in New York City.

“I needed an internship, so I worked here over the summer. We found out we worked really well together,” she said.
Good said he never thought of asking his daughter to join the family business. He knew she wanted to be in New York. But coincidentally, 10 years ago was when the company celebrated its 150th anniversary and the family spent time in New York City and Brulport also saw the grandeur around Steinway and its festivities.

Brulport, 32, realized she has grown up in the piano business.

“She has sat at the knees of musical greats,” said Good, 61, including an event with Henry Steinway, the great-grandson of the company’s founder at his 90th birthday. That was an event in California, but Steinway also had been to the opening of Steinway Hall in Akron when Brulport was 9 years old.

New location
The new Boston Heights location will be called Steinway Piano Gallery Cleveland. There will be a Steinway Hall recital room inside the building. But Brulport said the family decided the building didn’t fit the Steinway Hall name, which was modeled after the original mansion in New York City.

The location at 334 E. Hines Hill Road was built as a Harley-Davidson store in 2004, and looks like parts of a motorcycle from the outside. Good purchased the building for $1 million, according to public records.

In 2011, Harley-Davidson decided it didn’t like the site, and the previous owner was forced to close it. The Akron franchise was eventually bought by the owners of Rubber City Harley-Davidson, which consolidated a North Hill store into a new location near Chapel Hill Mall.

The Boston Heights store will be open by the end of August. The structure has about 18,000 square feet, compared to the 12,000 square feet in Akron, with enough room to warehouse pianos.

The company is having a moving sale at its current location, but will continue to house some pianos at Steinway Hall until the building is sold. Good said he will most likely stay at the Steinway Hall while Brulport, who has taken care of all of the logistics of the purchase and move, will work out of Boston Heights.

“I don’t love the concept of leaving, but it’s the right thing to do,” Good said. “Someone should take better care of this building.

“It’s also not the best thing to leave for Catherine,” Good said of the aging building.

The family declined to share sales figures.

The phone number at the new location will remain the same 800-356-0437 and 330-535-6070.

Brulport said the new location needs some cosmetic work, but initially, they plan on leaving the motorcycle look alone.

“The outside has a distinctive look. We will work with it to make it more musical eventually,” she said.