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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Sam Ash Music Stores Shutting Down After a Century in Business

This week, Sam Ash, the renowned family-owned music store chain that has served musicians for a hundred years, declared the closure of all 42 of its locations. Derek Ash, descendant of founders Sam and Rose Ash, who inaugurated the inaugural Sam Ash store in Brooklyn’s Brownsville district in 1924, attributed the decision to the formidable competition posed by online shopping in today’s market landscape.

The decision follows an earlier announcement in March when Sam Ash revealed plans to shut down 18 locations in a bid to buy time and weather the storm of online retail. However, the company ultimately deemed closing all stores as a “necessity.”

Derek Ash, serving as the company’s chief marketing officer, pointed to the relentless shift towards online shopping as a major factor contributing to the closures. He emphasized the difficulty of maintaining brick-and-mortar stores with extensive selections in the face of myriad online options available to consumers.

The announcement struck a chord with musicians who fondly recalled their experiences at Sam Ash, whether it was purchasing instruments or simply enjoying the communal atmosphere of the stores. The news saddened many who lamented the loss of a tactile and communal experience that cannot be replicated online.

Musicians shared their memories of visiting Sam Ash stores over the years, with some recalling purchasing their first instruments there, while others reminisced about chance encounters with fellow musicians. The closure of Sam Ash marks the end of an era, particularly for those who frequented the store on West 48th Street in Manhattan, once a bustling hub for music stores known as Music Row.

Michael Whalen, a renowned composer and recording artist, fondly remembered his visits to the West 48th Street location in the 1990s, where he purchased synthesizers and recording gear. He reflected on the changing landscape of New York City, noting the closure of various establishments and the impact it has on the sense of community.

Similarly, rock guitarist Steve Stevens, known for his work with Billy Idol, recounted purchasing his beloved guitar from a Sam Ash store in Queens in 1983. He described the store as having a “mom-and-pop feel,” despite being a corporate chain, and emphasized its significance in his musical journey.

The roots of Sam Ash trace back to its founder, Sam Ash, who immigrated to New York from Austria in 1907. Over the decades, the company has employed numerous musicians, providing them with a steady income while they pursued their passion for music.

Despite the challenges posed by online competition, employees like Luis Infantas, a manager at the West 34th Street store, highlighted the unique experience of working at Sam Ash. He recalled memorable encounters with customers, including Stevie Wonder and James Gandolfini, underscoring the store’s legacy as a hub for musicians and music enthusiasts alike.

While the closure of Sam Ash marks the end of an era, its impact on the music community will undoubtedly endure. As musicians and customers bid farewell to the beloved chain, they fondly remember the experiences and memories shared within its walls.

David Faber
David Faber
I am a Business Journalist of The National Era
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