One of the state's two Steinway Piano Gallery showrooms is closing its doors.
Ben Garber, a piano instructor and technician, purchased the Madison store at 6629 Mineral Point Rd. in 2014 but said Wednesday he is closing the store for a number of reasons including sales, the cost of inventory and his schedule. He teaches 65 students a week and also services pianos.
"Wearing that many hats has been a lot to handle," said Garber, a UW-Madison graduate of the School of Music and who began playing the piano when was 6 years old. "It's been difficult to have everything going."
A clearance sale is underway at the 3,750-square-foot showroom where on Wednesday there were about 70 pianos remaining ranging in price from $600 to $180,000 for a full concert grand from Steinway & Sons, a company founded in 1853 in New York.
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The Madison showroom was opened in 2007 by Grant Billings, a third generation Steinway retailer. The Milwaukee Steinway Piano Gallery near Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa remains open.
Garber learned to regulate pianos as a student worker and began teaching piano lessons for the UW-Piano Project. He attended graduate school at Rice University in Houston from 2003 to 2006 where he earned Master’s Degrees in piano performance and piano technology and then maintained a full studio of private piano students and went to work as a piano technician for the Steinway dealer in Houston. He moved back to Madison in 2002 and and began building a new piano studio while working for Forbes-Meagher Music as a piano technician from 2003 to 2007. When Forbes-Meagher closed he went to work at the Steinway showroom as a sales associate and master technician while also teaching.
It's unclear when the Steinway showroom will close and Garber said he is looking for studio space for his lessons. Once the showroom closes it will leave just Heid Music, 7948 Tree Lane, and Farley's House of Pianos, 6522 Seybold Rd., as the only full service piano retailers in Madison.
"It was previously a highly sought after aspirational item for families but due to competing activities (sales are) probably not as strong as they once were," Garber said of selling pianos. "The biggest question will be how big will the market have to be to have five or six beautiful Steinways for people to look at and in Wisconsin it’s a little bit tougher road."