Piano businesses are sadly a rarity in our computer driven world. In the early 20th century, before the dawn of computer technology and social media fever, pianos were a hot commodity, with over 364,000 sold in 1909 in the United States.
Today, only 30-40,000 pianos are sold a year, a decline linked primarily to time constraints from computer games, and from distraction from playing music by competitive sports like swimming, football and soccer. Fortunately, Oakland Park has been the home to one of the rare piano store gems, GrandMasters Piano on 4378 N Dixie Hwy, since 1989.
The two story piano showroom houses an impressive 7,000 square feet dedicated to pianos and piano oriented services. Whether your piano needs are tuning, storage, moving, refinishing or refurbishing, GrandMasters fits the bill.
The showroom houses Steinways, Mason Hamlins, Boston Steinway Upright, Baldwin B-52 and even a C7 Yamaha played by John Legend, as well as pianos used at the Hard Rock venue.
GrandMasters Piano – a description of a skilled martial artist – was named for the Palmer family’s love of martial arts. There is even a small karate studio nestled on the second floor of the piano showroom where the staff take karate classes!
Owner Dean Palmer Sr served in the Navy and there he nurtured a love of woodmaking, but, ironically, he never played piano. Dean’s son, Dean Palmer Jr was born deaf, and this condition inspired young Palmer to gravitate to piano as a hobby.
With piano playing for his son as a motivation and a penchant for craftsmanship, Palmer Sr started rebuilding pianos in a small garage in 1989. He taught himself how to tune from watching VHS videos on the subject.
Deafness and other sensory deficits can make vibration and humming more accentuated, and
piano playing afforded Palmer Jr a creative, musical outlet to express himself. In fact, Palmer Jr personally trained all of the current tuners at GrandMasters. He is currently in college with plans to return to the family business post graduation.
Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was a natural disaster that proved to be pivotal to the Palmer’s business. Andrew’s devastating winds decimated hundreds of home, condos and pianos and, as a result, many damaged residential and church/mosque and synagogue pianos required moving, restoring, painting, tuning, demolishing, and refurbishing.
Dean Sr. shares that he moved hurricane damaged pianos from swimming pools, the sand and from roofless homes after Andrew! After moving the pianos, the customer invariably needed piano restoring and tuning, and Dean Sr quickly realized that full service piano service was necessary.
Another societal calamity that improved business was the 2020 pandemic for the piano industry. As a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, GrandMasters Piano also saw an upswing in business due to lockdown boredom, and to remote school and work situations.
Although private music lessons dropped during the pandemic, some simply turned virtual. Many adults commenced music lessons to deal with the isolation and the loneliness of the pandemic. In England, for example, during lockdown 75% of Britons turned to listening to music and to learning an instrument to relieve pandemic isolation.
For the Palmer family and their piano business, Florida’s covid leniency, relaxed mask and vaccine policies generated large moves to the state, and an increased demand for piano storage and sales.
Dean Sr. and Dean Jr. are both actively involved in the business, but youngest son, Nicholas, is main showroom overseer with a staff of 14 enduring employees, most of whom have worked with him over 5-10 years.
Longtime employee Luiz Castro, 18 years a loyal tuner at GrandMasters, confides that a steady, skilled job and the opportunity to learn a specific musical trade have been his motivation. Larry Hauus, 14 years an employee at GrandMasters Piano, shares that Dean Sr. afforded a lifetime trade and support through his immigration process from the Czech Republic.
From the marketing and social media side, Nicholas personally manages the business’ Instagram, Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, and Craig’s List accounts. Word of mouth referrals and compose a large portion of business for the Palmer family.
Nicolas shares that an obstacle of the piano business is the general lack of patience with instrument learning for today’s youth, teens and young children. Today’s TikTok and social media devotees often lack the devotion to sit at the piano keys for hours a day for mastery. Piano students tend to be older, like Generation X and Baby Boomers, who have the time, tenacity and less computer preoccupation.
The logistics of training his piano moving staff to also refurbish, restore, and to educate the customer on all piano maintenance aspects is another business challenge. Hence, Dean Sr. and Nicolas personally educate their staff on all aspects of the piano business, at the onset of hiring.
Dean Jr.’s biggest strength in business, is his precise piano tuning and refurbishing technique. He and his staff painstakingly balance the soundboard and diaphragm of every piano, as well as the QRS install, or conversion of an acoustic piano to a player piano.
Nicholas shares that pianos are “not going anywhere, as music is a stress reliever, and acoustic guitars tap into mother earth”. In fact, the Palmers are booked 6-8 months out currently for piano restoration and refurbishment jobs. Palmer Sr is shopping bigger space for the evergrowing demand for restoring/refurbishing.
Although computer gaming and digitalization of music are both realities, Florida’s densely populated, older and Generation Z population still gravitate to pianos and instruments for lifelong learning. Tickling the ivories, or playing piano for recreation, stress reduction, mental clarity and enhanced hand eye coordination is a 21st century reality.
GrandMasters Pianos has stayed the course for over three decades now, with their business evolving and growing ever bigger to meet demand. Their master skills and dedication are a key to their success and it is clear Oakland Parkers can expect to hear more from them and of them in the future because they are here to stay.
The showroom is open 6 days a week, and Nicholas has even extended to 7 days if a piano is needed for a wedding, or weekend concert at the Hard Rock. There is the capability of home based tuning/refurbishing as well.
If you are interested in touring the showroom or need their services, contact GrandMasters at 954-564-0553 and check out their Instagram page @grandmasterspianosfl.
Beth Cooper is a Philadelphia Pennsylvania native. She has lived and practiced in Oakland Park for 21 years. Her practice, called Sunshine Chiropractic Center, focuses on family, pediatric, pregnant women, back pain, and auto accidents.
Fitness, running and yoga are her passions. Beth loves spending time with her 11 year old daughter and husband Rob of 20 years when not working.
She loves to support and utilize local mom and pop, entrepreneurial businesses whenever possible. She volunteers for Poverello Live Well Center weekly as the agency’s chiropractor and has done so for over 10 years.