A Family Business Stays In Tune

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - April 22, 2009
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Steven Sanders tickles the ivories at Piano Outlet

The Sanders family piano business has added three things to its two stores so more people can tickle the ivories.

Piano Outlet at Pearl Highlands Center is the only authorized Yamaha dealer in the state. The Sanders Piano shop on King Street now sells sheet music. And the second generation, Steven Sanders and his wife Li, may be grooming the third generation of the Sanders dynasty with their children Victoria, 3, and newborn Olivia, who was born April 16.

At the helm now are the first and second generations, working six days a week together. Bill Sanders, president, oversees the details of the business, including expenses and advertising. Son Steven, who serves as sales manager, says one of the lessons he learned from Dad is to pay attention to the details.

“Being in sales and marketing, a lot of times you are planning the big picture,” admits the younger Sanders, who started taking piano lessons at age 6. “The thing that he really impresses upon me is to make sure all the little parts are in line, and then big picture will come together.”

When ABC Music store closed last year, the 4,000-square-foot Piano Outlet became the only authorized Yamaha dealer in Hawaii.

“Yamaha is a leader, one of the strongest brands in pianos and digital pianos,” says Sanders. “The Yamaha Clarinova is almost like Q-tips or Coca-Cola because they are the first digital pianos made popular to take the place of an acoustic grand piano. In Hawaii, we do have a very large Asian population, and the Yamaha branding in that population is probably unparalleled. There is no other brand that is recognized as being synonymous with good-quality instruments as Yamaha.”

The 5,500-square-foot Sanders Piano location carries Steinway and Kawai pianos. And since ABC Music closed, piano teachers cried out that they no longer had a place to get sheet music and books, so Sanders Piano filled the gap.

“One piece may be done by three publishers,” says Sanders. The family got into the piano business when Bill Sanders worked for his uncle at the Ed Jeffrey Piano and Organ Center, which opened in 1954. When his uncle passed away, Bill Sanders became the piano dealer. The company name changed to Baldwin Piano Center in 1972, and over time it changed to Baldwin Sanders, and then Sanders Piano.

Piano Outlet opened 15 years ago at the inception of Pearl Highland Center.

Steven Sanders, the youngest of four siblings, worked for Norwest Financial for a couple of years before he joined the company officially in 1994. His brother Todd, who used to move the pianos, started his own moving company, S and S Delivery. The family extends its appreciation for the support of friends and customers.

One of the challenges of running a piano business, Sanders notes, is music-making is a lifelong commitment.

“Getting people interested in music has always been a challenge for our industry,” he reveals. “Our lessons program helps expose people, and it is fun.”

There are more than 1,000 students a week who take piano lessons at both stores.

“We focus on what we are good at: the cultivation of music,” adds Sanders.

Sanders Piano is located at 1500 S. King St. For more information, call 946-6500 or log onto sanderspianos.com. Piano Outlet is located at Pearl Highland Center at 1000 Kamehameha Hwy. For more information, call 456-0562 or log onto thepianooutlethawaii.com.

CORRECTION: The caption in last week’s Entrepreneur article on EMME Inc. identified Robert Pennybacker as the director of Emme Tomimbang’s documentary John A. Burns: The Man and His Times. Lisa Altieri Sosa served as the co-producer/director. Roy Kimura was director/writer. We regret the error.

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