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Shockey's piano store closing

June 15, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

The empty pair of sneakers on his showroom floor Thursday didn't faze John E. Shockey.

cont. from front page

"People do that all the time," said the 93-year-old owner of Shockey's piano and organ store in downtown Hagerstown.

Customer Emmert Files slid his socked-feet across the pedals of a Baldwin organ that has been reduced to what he called a "fantastic" price. The organist at Cedar Lawn Missionary Church in Hagerstown said he'll miss his frequent visits to Shockey's.

The business at 30 Summit Ave. is closing after 68 years.

"I'm very upset that Shockey's is closing," Files said. "It's been a major institution in Hagerstown for many, many years."

Shockey's is slashing piano and organ prices in a storewide liquidation sale that started Thursday and will run through August, Store Manager Don House said.

The business must be vacated by Sept. 1, Shockey said.

Williamsport developer Richard McCleary, who owns the nearby former Delta Hosiery building and the Grand Building, has said he plans to spend about $1 million to renovate the Shockey's building and convert it for retail use on the ground floor and offices on the upper floors.

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The four-story Shockey's building has about 38,000 square feet of space.

Files remembered scavenging hard-to-find Hammond organ tubes from the building's "upper reaches." The organist said he was never charged for the parts.

It's such customer service that has distinguished his store from other retailers, Shockey said.

But the once-booming business has been losing money for the past four years, and Shockey said it's time to close the doors. He can't compete against larger chain stores, he said.

"I'm considered an old-timer. It goes against my grain to quit the business - that's a fact," Shockey said. "But I can't afford to lose too much. I haven't made a dime in four years."

The retired U.S. Army colonel has helped staff the store every day except Wednesday. He could have retired 30 years ago, but his passion for piano and organ sales drew him to work each day, he said.

"All I know is this business and the military," Shockey said. "It was an exciting business. It really was."

Since opening his first store on East Franklin Street in 1932, Shockey has sold thousands of pieces of furniture and appliances, and pianos and organs, to customers in the Tri-State area.

He bought and moved into the Summit Avenue building in the early 1940s, and stopped selling furniture and appliances about 20 years later, he said.

"I avoid selling except for grand pianos and organs," said Shockey, who produced from his briefcase several long lists of the individuals, schools and churches to whom he's sold his products over the years.

During its peak years just after the end of World War II, Shockey's sold $500,000 worth of pianos and organs annually, he said.

The store's basement is filled with the mirror spinets - modified pianos with mirrored tops - that Shockey's workers produced during the piano shortage of the early 1940s.

"Pianos were scarce," he said. "You couldn't buy them during the war."

The Hagerstown native shared many good memories of his years in business, years made possible by the support of loyal customers, he said.

But Shockey said he's ready to retire and devote more time to his favorite hobby, shooting sporting clays. His wife of 40 years, Elizabeth Shockey, said closing the store is a "great relief."

Her husband will be busy, and no doubt "driving too fast" to his other engagements, but he still can't come home for lunch.

"I married him for better or for worse but not for lunch," she laughed.

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