August 5, 2020

Jacobs Music is Shutting its Doors, But Hopes to Relocate Soon

DON’T STOP THE MUSIC: Jacobs Music is hoping to find a new location to continue selling Steinway pianos and hosting recitals by the local music community.

By Anne Levin

Jacobs Music Company is closing its longtime Lawrence store. But all is not lost for area musicians who have purchased pianos and performed in the store’s recital hall for the past few decades. Plans are underway to find a new location.

“The area around us is kind of decaying, and many of our neighbors are leaving,” said Senior Vice President Bob Rinaldi of the store on Brunswick Pike that has sold pianos and hosted recitals since the 1980s. “So we’re thinking to move a few miles north of 95. We don’t know where yet. We’re contacting agents now.”

In the meantime, a store-closing sale is underway, by appointment only. Jacobs Music is the exclusive dealer representative in the area for new, pre-owned, and factory-restored pianos made by Steinway & Sons at their factory in Queens, N.Y. The Lawrence store is a branch of the main Jacobs location in Philadelphia, which was established in 1900. Other branches are in Cherry Hill and Shrewsbury; and in West Chester, Doylestown, and Ephrata, Pa.

The pandemic is a major reason for the closure. “It’s not easy as a retailer to pay rent when there’s no revenue being generated,” said Rinaldi. “The thought is, why pay rent if it’s not going to be a great environment in the fall?”

Due to damage suffered at the flagship store on Philadelphia’s Chestnut Street during May 30 demonstrations following the killing of George Floyd, there are more pianos than usual at the Lawrence location. The plan is to keep them out of Philadelphia, for now.

“It seemed that the damage done was just an intent to vandalize. Somebody threw a brick through the window,” said Rinaldi. “Three pianos were damaged, but nobody stole anything. What was strange was that at the restaurant next door, a digital piano was pulled out into the street and set on fire.”

Following the riots, Rinaldi’s daughter saw on Twitter that someone was inside the store, playing Beethoven on a piano. So she shared it on social media. “What’s interesting is that the inspiration was obviously there for somebody to make music,” Rinaldi said. “The next day at 6 a.m., we went to clean up the mess, and there were residents of the area already cleaning up and picking up shards of glass. So in the end, what appeared to be a really bad thing turned out to be kind of inspiring.”

With the sale underway and precautions in place at the Lawrence store, only one family or customer are allowed in at a time. Masks, gloves, and sanitizer are on hand, and plexiglass panels are in place. Sales have been brisk, despite worries about social distancing.

“Business has been extraordinary,” said Rinaldi. What some of us don’t realize is just how meaningful the piano is to people. Now that people have more time to play the instrument, they actually want a better one. A lot of parents are looking for pianos for their kids.
So many participate in band, and band instruments aren’t as safe right now. Also, the piano is a very satisfying instrument to play solo.”

Rinaldi plays a little, but “but not very well,” he said. “I coach my daughters’ soccer.” His father owned Jacobs Music from the early 1980s until his death five years ago. The business is now operated by Rinaldi and his brother Chris Rinaldi. The store sells Steinway pianos as well as a large selection of used instruments from manufacturers around the world and Roland digital pianos.

Rinaldi hopes the new location will be able to house a recital hall that can seat more than the 85 to 90 accommodated in the Lawrence store. “We will absolutely have a recital hall, because that’s vital to the community,” he said. “We host more than 100 live performances a year. That has kind of stopped, for now, but it will be a part of our future. We have to make plans to do that. Beyond being a retailer, we are a member of the musical community here.”