What happened to mall organ stores?

No, not places selling kidneys and livers.

When I was a kid in the 1970s, every shopping mall in my hometown had a store that sold nothing but electronic organs. One mall we sometimes visited had two organ stores.

Fast forward to the present, where mall organ stores are nonexistent. What happened to all of them? Is there still a relic of a mall somewhere that has one? Were organs immensely popular in the 1970s, or was it some sort of strange retail fad?

I remember this as well from the 80s. At least I remember seeing them in movies in the 80s that took place in malls. “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” as a prime example.

Good question, elmwood. I never even thought about it! I know there still are freestanding stores around - perhaps people didn’t want to spend that kind of dough on something they bought at a “mall”? (Kind of like furniture - which is why furniture stores are freestanding usually.)

IIRC, they usually sold pianos as well. I’m guessing the piano-and-organ demographic aged out of the marketplace after the 70s. Baby boomer parents didn’t put the same value on live music in the home.

They’re still around in places. In Northshore Mall in Danvers, MA they put one in a few months ago where a Sam Goody’s (CD DVD, etc. shop) had gone out of business.

Weren’t those the Hammond Organ stores? I think they went out of business around 85’?

I think there’s still a piano/organ store in a mall here in Tulsa. If I recall correctly, I think it’s tucked in a lightly traveled corner of the mall, where I presume the rent is cheaper and a lot of people wouldn’t notice it unless you were looking for it. Which makes sense to me: they aren’t exactly an impulse item, where you’re walking to your car from buying some towels at J.C. Penney, notice the piano store and say “man, a piano sounds really really good right now, might as well pick up a couple on the way out.”

Heh… We had exactly such a moment at Costco last night. Turned the corner, and saw a (Yamaha?) electronic baby grand. The person I was with developed sudden lust for the thing, and it took a couple repetitions of “Where would we put it?” and “We can’t afford it! If you want a piano, there’s always a bunch being offered for free on craigslist!” to snap them out of it.

Judging by the number of people offering up pianos and organs for free - you just show up with a truck and some strong friends and it’s yours - the general idea of having a large musical instrument in the house is rapidly losing favor.

Are people tired of huge furniture that they don’t use anymore? Are the kids sick of lessons and not interested in playing it? Are they moving to smaller places and the thing simply won’t fit?

Beyond that, technology is shrinking the things. The 1970’s organ that was as big as a chest freezer is now a highly portable keyboard that can be plugged into your stereo system if you want better sound than the speakers that are built into it. Regular strings and soundboard pianos are essentially un-shrinkable without breaking a couple laws of physics, but the electronic versions are definitely comparatively petite. That one we saw at Costco was by no means portable, but at something like four feet wide and two feet deep, it is readily transportable and far smaller than a regular baby grand, which is no baby at about five feet by six or seven feet and several hundred pounds.

This is the answer in a nutshell.

And while you’re visiting, may I also interest you in a complete set of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, including the Macropaedia and Propaedia, and this Commodore 64 with color CRT monitor and dual 1541 floppy drive units? Act now and I’ll throw in the Okidata dot-matrix printer for free!

You can’t have my Sony Walkman with the three-band graphic equalizer and auto-reverse tape mechanism and Dolby B noise reduction circuit, though. I’m holding on to that!

They’ve all moved to here in Bangkok. We’ve got 'em. Um, you mean you don’t have them in the US any more? Man, I’ve been gone a long time.

But does it play metal tapes?

Ugh. You’ve just described the contents of my storage room (except I didn’t have dual floppies. I had one floppy and a tape drive).

I think I have some ribbon for that printer if you want it.

Yes. I do have a problem getting rid of stuff. Why do you ask?

Never expected this thread to be this long, actually. I’m also curious about other types of businesses that used to be commonplace in malls, such as novelty stores (Spencer’s Gifts) and arcades (video games now seem relegated to sports bars and establishments like Dave & Buster’s)

Music stores (cds & tapes) in malls are pretty much dead around these parts.

All the Sam Goody’s and FYEs have closed up for good. I think the Mall of America has the last remaining Sam Goody in the twin cities.

Well, what am I then? I actually paid good money, plus shipping, to buy a mint condition C=64 set just as described (minus the printer, but plus a FastLoad cartridge) on eBay two or three years ago after I found an old box of floppies in my old room at my parents’ house. It included saved games of Ultima II and III and “Mail Order Monsters” that I spent hours and hours playing as a young teenager.

Then I had to sit there without a manual and sloooowly remember commands like LOAD “*”,8,1.

The problem is that most were franchises. And franchises run on fads. Not fads in the mainstream world you and I see, but in the financing world.
If somebody has a success story on the cover of Inc. about an organ franchise, then there will be a feeling that there’s money to made and the people who loan to franchisers will be receptive to that and shy about putting any more money into the last trend.

Anyone know why I can’t buy the latest Nickelback album on LP at KMart anymore? I searched the whole store, but no LPs…not even a 45.

Oh my-organ music. As a kid growing up in the burbs of Philly, Sundays belonged to Larry Ferrari and his commanding performances on the keyboard. Also, there’s the world famous Wanamaker Organ at 13th and Market Streets.

I used to work at a piano and organ store, about eight years ago. Yes, there still are some.

There are probably a dozen different answers why you don’t see them around any more, so let me list a few.

  1. Space. Mall stores have a limited amount of room to display and store large instruments. A nine foot grand piano, or a $40,000 organ, takes up a hell of a lot of room.

  2. Sales. Mall stores are very very hard places to set up shop to sell large instruments. Since you have less space, you’re bound not to have all the models you’d like to sell, which means you’re referring customers to your stand-alone stores anyway; and mall stores attract tons of browsing people and children who like to play (read: smash on) the pianos while their parents shop. Sales, not so much.

  3. Noise. It’s difficult to sell somebody an instrument they can’t hear, because the mall traffic and Muzak is too loud.

  4. The overall decline of the popularity of mall stores in general. Last I heard, malls were going empty nationwide as new shopping parks, corrals of strip malls with a common parking lot, took their places.

  5. Hours. Mall stores have little control over their store hours, meaning labor costs are difficult to control.

  6. Lessons. Most buyers of large instruments are not experienced musicians, but people who would like to be. Lessons are a good incentive to new buyers. However, with the limited space and little privacy, malls aren’t a good place to teach.

  7. Fashion. The large two-manual-plus-foot-pedals type organ isn’t as fashionable as it once was. There is still a certain crowd, fifty-five and older, who may fondly remember the organ music played behind radio serials and soap operas. They are the principal buyers of such instruments. Perhaps stores have left the malls because the target market has too.