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The Shopping Mall Organ Vendors 70's and 80's what do you remember about them?

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  • The Shopping Mall Organ Vendors 70's and 80's what do you remember about them?

    I am in my mid 40's.I can remember a little bit about the mall organ/piano stores.I grew up a mile away from a huge indoor shopping mall.As a kid I went there often.And fwiw also a mile from a stand alone music store.The stand alone store was called Wilking music. They sold yamaha and alvarez and thats all I can be sure of.They had sev brands though. I am sure as authorized dealers.Wilking had aggressive sales people like the mall stores.Even as a kid I could tell Wilking music sold better instruments then the mall store.I can remember the store inside the mall,It had salesmen playing organs and pianos loud enough so you might be tempted to get a closer listen.I think my Dad warned me dont go in there they will never let us go till we buy something.lol Even as a kid It seemed like a racket and kinda cheesey to me.Where these stores ran by major organ makers?i.e. was Kimball one? What makers had retail stores at shopping malls?I remember they sold cheap guitars,and I do mean the cheapest made guitars at the time.The guitars must of been part wall hangers to draw people in.And if they couldnt sell a organ or piano to somebody for a few thousand,then maybe a guitar for fifty bucks.lol Could you buy decent organs at the mall? what brands? Did mall stores have a shady reputation like mall pet stores?Did most people go to stand alone music stores to buy quality organs.Did each maker have it own stand alone stores?I do think the mall stores where fantastic.If I could go back in time It would be on the list of must see places. I wish the younger organ fans could have seen it too.Anybody else like to share?Please do!

  • #2
    I remember Conn and Hammond dealers having mall stores on Long Island NY where I grew up. The Conn store was free standing with glass all around. I lusted after the 3 manual Conn 650 theatre organ they had on display.

    I also remember when every major department store had a piano and organ department. I'm little bit fuzzy on who had what but one store featured Wurlitzer's and the other had Hammond spinets and A100's.

    This was in the late '60's. I think things went downhill fast once manufacturers tried to out gimmick one another with easy play features in the '70's. That's when sleaze set in.

    Allen 965
    Zuma Group Midi Keyboard Encoder
    Zuma Group DM Midi Stop Controller
    Hauptwerk 4.2


    • #3
      I also remember the good old times. we were living across for a mall that had a organ store in Toronto.
      They were selling Hammond, Eminent organs and I spend many hours playing in the store at night and on the weekends.
      I would be great if this was coming back but thats dreaming to much.
      History:Hammond L100,Hammond H100,Eminent 2000,Baldwin Cinema II,Technics F1, E65 Roland AT900.
      Current: Technics SX-EA5,Roland AT100


      • #4
        Thats cool that places like sears and j.c. pennys had organ and piano depts.


        • #5
          Remember-- they were concessions or in the store's preferred 'fancy term', leased departments. In the 1970's when I worked in the P & O biz in Philadelphia, three different major, well-known department stores downtown had piano & organ concessions... all owned by the same guy, who also owned a chain of P & O stores- one of which was located only a few blocks from those department stores!
          R, Bill Miller

          Originally posted by hamnyam View Post
          Thats cool that places like sears and j.c. pennys had organ and piano depts.


          • #6
            My first job in the electronics industry was working as a service tech at the Conn dealer in the mall in Michigan City, IN while I was going to college for my BSEE. The store had a fairly large footprint with a 2nd floor mezzanine for the 'combo' section (guitars, amps, drums, etc.). We had a good number of organs and pianos on display, including a 651 (later a 652) and an Artist (721, then 716), both with Conn pipes.

            We also sponsored mini-concerts out in the mall's center court area, including one in 1975 on the new Conn models with a certain new young product specialist, Hector Olivera . There was dead silence for about 5-6 secs while everyone was standing around with their mouths open before exploding into applause after his rendition of 'Flight of the Bumblebee' on the pedals.

            Fun times, but the market took a steep dive in the late 70s and the store closed in the early 80s. I'd already moved on to the computer industry.

            --- Tom
            Rodgers 660 with additional analog rack sets (practice), 36D/C in digital conversion, Yamaha CVP-107


            • #7
              I also remember once seeing a fully rigged Conn 652 with Pipes and Leslie at a mall.
              While this 652 setup is really pushing the envelope of "home organs", were there any manufacturers that made home organs that were NOT sold in malls??


              • #8
                There were, at the height of the industry, over 45 manufacturers and several hundred models available at any one time. Not all of them made it across to the USA (but some sneaked in as rebadged 'American' organs) so there will be plenty that didn't appear in malls.

                The mall stores never caught on in the UK, with just a few of the big chains trying it out. UK sales techniques were a lot less pushy than those used in the US malls, so maybe better suited to more traditional organ dealerships.
                It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

                New website now live - www.andrew-gilbert.com

                Current instruments: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition, Yamaha PSR-S970, Kawai K1m
                Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond L122, T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball Temptation.
                Retired Leslies, 147, 145 x 2, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.
                Retired synths: Korg 700, Roland SH1000, Jen Superstringer, Kawai S100F, Kawai S100P, Kawai K1


                • #9
                  I remember when Lowrey had a Mall Store here then sold it to an independent dealer when Lowrey dropped that program.
                  The local Sears store of course sold Silvertone by Thomas since Sears owned Warwick Electronics at that time.
                  When Whirlpool bought Thomas I wondered if you could get a combination washer-dryer-organ, but it never happened.

                  The Hammond dealer I tech'ed for in 1968 had just taken on Thomas since Hammond sales couldn't keep him afloat. At that time the Hammond dealers were called "Hammond Organ Studios of (town name here)." In the mid - late 70's he also sold Allen. He was in a small strip mall.

                  Across the street was the Conn dealer in another strip mall. The salesmen wore name tags that read "Conn Man." License plates that read "C# or Bb."
                  A few miles down the same street was the Wurlitzer dealer and further on was the Baldwin store.
                  Later, towards "The End" there was an independent dealer that sold Thomas, Kimball, Gulbransen, and Ahlborn-Galanti. He also had a Mall store with Technics.
                  We had a Kawai dealer for a while who also sold the small Rodgers keyboards. Again in a small corner strip mall.
                  All this in Tucson, Arizona.



                  • #10
                    "Ah yes, I remember it well". I really remember being overwhelmed by the number of choices. Buying a car was relatively easy. My first: Lowery HR-25 in 1974 when I was 33.
                    Now I have a Technics GA3 and a F100 (because of AndyG and you-tube's Jim Harris). (So now, I blame it all on Andy.)
                    These are both much better organs than I am an organist. I am/was a Nuclear Engineer, so every once in a while, I go exploring in Technics sub-sub menus and adjust how many electrons are spinning around the nucleus. Never bored.
                    IMHO, Technics was the best of the "modern" home electronics to throw in the towel. ....and Andy used to perform with a GA3 - an exceptionally capable spinet.
                    Last edited by Royal; 07-03-2014, 08:37 AM.


                    • #11
                      Those of you who are members of the Electronic Organ History Yahoo Group will find an entire album entitled Mall Stores, with 26 Lowrey mall store photos.

                      Aside to Hamnyam: sounds like you are a fellow-Hoosier. When I first moved to Indy, I serviced Conn and Minshall for Marion Music, owned by Forrest Wilking, brother of Frank who owned Wilking Music. I later took on Wilking's account, just as the first Wurlitzer 4100's were arriving (most of them DOA). Talk about "immersion"!

                      . . . Jan


                      • #12
                        I worked at Thomas Organ in Chicago/Niles from late 1975 through late 1978--Thomas was owned by Warwick Electronics, and Warwick was owned by Whirlpool Corp at the time. There was, I think, some sort of "incestuous" relationship between Whirlpool and Sears--I don't know if it was mutual stock ownership or what.

                        The mall in Schaumburg IL, Woodfield Mall, was supposedly the largest indoor mall at the time, had a Wurlitzer store and a Conn store. I think the Wurly store was factory owned. Different manufacturers had different arrangements. After Thomas, I worked for Lowrey for a time, and they tended to favor "mom and pop" music stores.

                        It's interesting that the market trend in home organs during the 1970's followed a similar trend to the market for pipe organs in the 1920's. Both peaked and then dropped to maybe 10% of the peak volume within just a year or two. Of course, talking pictured did in the theatre pipe organ market. I suspect that the home electronic organ market was more of a fad--if the buyers didn't actually take lessons and learn to play music, the novelty of the auto-play features wore off pretty fast. And, too, they started to get very expensive. The manufacturer's who based their instruments on traditional playing, e.g., Allen and Rodgers, rather than features, are the ones that are still around today, The Lowrey's of today seem to me to be more glorified keyboards than organ, but Lowrey never really aimed for a pipe-like organ in my opinion.


                        • #13
                          I remember that there was a Wurlitzer organ store on Main Street in Disneyland, Anaheim, California. It was near the entrance to Main Street to the right. I can only guess that this was in the mid 1960s. They may have had pianos in the store also - but I do not remember.


                          • #14
                            Wow, try getting kids interested in organs and pianos rather than Disneyland these days...

                            In fact, how did they manage that at any time?!


                            • #15
                              Toodles wrote, in part with: "but Lowrey never really aimed for a pipe-like organ in my opinion."

                              So, how about the Lowrey C-32 (1966)?

                              . . . Jan