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Moes new key

Longtime piano purveyor sees harmony in Pearl move

That new and rather grand piano store on Northwest 13th Avenue in Portland's upscale Pearl District is really an old acquaintance in a splashy new get-up.

Sherman Clay Ñ an 18,000-square-foot, eye-catching showcase of more than 200 pianos at 131 N.W. 13th Ave. Ñ is the former Moe's Pianos, a fixture of note in Southeast Portland's Woodstock neighborhood for nearly 30 years.

Portland's popular piano purveyor moved from the laid-back Woodstock area to the jazzy Pearl District in February, changing its name along with its location.

It was a tough decision, said Mitch Paola, Sherman Clay general manager and grandson of Maurice 'Moe' Schuster, for whom the original store was named.

'It's a more central location for us,' Paola said of the new address. 'A lot of our customers are from Southwest Portland. It was a longer drive over there (to Woodstock). Now we're more accessible.'

As for the name change, Paola said it means exchanging one heritage for an equally interesting one.

Sherman Clay & Co., founded in 1870, is a San Francisco-based piano dealership and the country's largest distributor of Steinway & Sons pianos. The company had acquired Moe's in 1989, though it kept the Moe's name. Paola, an original Moe's employee, stayed on to manage the Portland store.

With the move to the new space, the time was right to change the name as well. Reflecting its parent company's relationship with Steinway, the Portland Sherman Clay is Oregon's only Steinway dealer.

Though the new store has roughly the same square footage as the former store at 4500 S.E. Woodstock Blvd., the space has more advantages, including an expansive room to showcase Steinway pianos. There's also a room for community recitals.

Though rent is 50 percent more in the new Pearl space, the location should mean more piano sales that will offset the cost increases, Paola said.

The business is likely to weather the current sluggish economy, Paola said, because 'people always want to have a piano in their home.'

'Our business does fluctuate, but people always have an interest in music,' he said, adding that Moe's/Sherman Clay sells about 400 pianos a year. 'They want their children to take lessons, or a piano is something people love having.'

Pianos in the Sherman Clay showrooms range from $1,000 to $100,000. Among the most interesting is a quaint, restored 1917 'Louis XV' Steinway that currently is selling for $45,000.

The store also carries electric pianos and organs. And for those who can't tickle the ivories on their own, there's a digital device that can turn an ordinary piano into a high-tech version of the early 20th-century player pianos.