After More Than a Century, Sherman Clay Store Closing Doors

Aug 6, 2013

It’s been the go-to music store in Seattle since the 1870s. But Sherman Clay is packing up its grand pianos and shutting down its iconic downtown store on Fourth Avenue.

In the 1980s, anyone in search of a used or new Steinway grand piano could turn to the  Seattle store as well as some 60 other Sherman Clay stores around the country. 

But the San Francisco company has decided to get out of the piano selling business to concentrate on other interests such as commercial real estate and paper manufacturing.

One by one, the company has been shutting down its retail stores. The Seattle store, its last remaining one, will close on Sept. 30. And when it does, it will be the end of an institution, says Tom Austin,  president of the retail division of Sherman Clay.

A Sherman Clay horse drawn carriage, 1906. The image hangs in a stairwell in the Seattle store.

"The store has seen everybody come in," Austin said, "from horse-drawn carriages dropping off pianos from the docks or from trains, then to the Big Band-era where we were one of the largest RCA Victrola franchises in the world, to (the) '60s when the Beatles came to our store and utilized our rock-and-roll instruments upstairs on the second floor to rehears for their Seattle show."

Austin said the four-story Sherman Clay building has been sold and the new owners don’t plan on operating a music store.

The store employs four people and has about 200 new and used pianos for sale. Austin said New York's Steinway & Sons piano company is likely to find another distributor in Seattle.