Transporting more than 100 pianos across town last spring, from Battlefield Shopping Center to Market Street in downtown Leesburg, was no easy task. In fact, Robert Purdon, general manager of the Piano Company, described the move as “a logistical nightmare.”
But after 16 years at the store’s previous site, Purdon is happy with the shift to the current location, near the Loudoun County Government Center.
“It was like coming home,” Purdon said. “Everything fits so perfectly with what we do. If we set out with a builder to structure a building to fit our needs perfectly, it couldn’t be much more perfect than this.”
Most of the Piano Company’s customers are local families, Purdon said. However, the store’s selection of instruments also attracts a clientele that includes concert pianists, music professors, Hollywood actors, and Washington Redskins players and coaches, he said.
The store mostly sells high-end acoustic pianos, new and used, ranging in size from grands and baby grands to smaller uprights, consoles and spinets. It also carries some electronic pianos and hybrid instruments that blend acoustic elements with digital technology.
“Hybrids are getting a lot of attention,” he said. “That may be where the industry is going.”
Although Purdon is partial to acoustic pianos, he acknowledged that the quality of electronic pianos is continually improving, making them an attractive option for individuals, churches or schools with limited budgets.
“We’re realists,” he said.
Prices range from about $1,000 for some electronic pianos “on up, with no limit to the up,” Purdon said.
The Piano Company’s salespeople do not work on commission, he said, because he thinks there is a conflict of interest when salespeople — whose job is to provide expert advice to their customers — benefit more from selling certain makes or models.
Instead, the business is structured like CarMax, he said. The sales prices of the pianos are clearly labeled, and it is the store’s policy not to negotiate the cost.
Purdon, 73, can speak with expertise about why one piano might be worth $10,000 while another is worth several times more. During a tour of the showroom, he gestured to instruments made by Steinway, Kawai and lesser-known companies such as Bohemia and Steingraeber, describing each.
The Piano Company’s showroom displays what Purdon says are two of the finest pianos in the world — the Italian Fazioli, which he compared to a Ferrari, and the Japanese Shigeru Kawai, the top of the line for the Kawai brand. What sets them apart are craftsmanship and attention to detail, he said.
The three most important components of a piano are its wood, strings and hammers, he said. The finest piano manufacturers give great care to each detail and spend hundreds of hours hand-crafting each instrument.
“There are less than 200 man-hours in an American Steinway,” Purdon said, contrasting that with the upward of 750 artist-level hours that go into making a Shigeru Kawai, or the more than a thousand for a Fazioli.
“When you put a thousand man-hours into an instrument, you can get it to be pretty good,” he said.
The store’s centerpiece is a 10-foot, two-inch concert grand made by Fazioli that Purdon calls the “Hope Diamond” of pianos. Valued at a quarter of a million dollars, the piano is privately owned and not for sale. However, the owner allows it to be displayed at the store, and it is occasionally transported for concerts at the Kennedy Center or White House.
Purdon carefully removed a cloth cover protecting the piano and lifted the lid, revealing the autographs of some of the artists who had played it in concert: Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Randy Weston and others.
Although the Piano Company attracts its share of music professionals and celebrities, Purdon said many of his customers are parents who learned to play piano as children and now want to pass that discipline on to their children.
“What we do is all about families,” he said. “It’s strengthening from within, and I think that music can do this. It creates some wonderful memories, especially around holiday time.”