It's been awhile since I took a walk on Music Row, that block of West 48th Street once known for its many shops full of instruments, sheet music, and men (mostly) who knew how to build and repair.
A year ago, the Post reported that, after 50 years here, and ever expanding, Sam Ash would be leaving the block and moving to 34th Street. This meant leaving several empty storefronts behind. Sam Ash held so much real estate here, including the more recently taken over Manny's Music, their move effectively killed the block.
Walking on Music Row today is like walking through a ghost town. Sam Ash's empty storefronts, once capped with red awnings, are empty, white-painted hollows, each covered by a roll-down gate--and they run for much of the block. It looks like urban blight.
Demolition has begun for an incoming condo building. A Dunkin Donuts is "Now Open" in what had been Rod Baltimore's New York Woodwind & Brass Music shop.
Rod Baltimore had been doing business on the block for about 50 years. In an interview with WNYC just last year he said that "he'll never retire" and "made sure the store on Music Row will outlive him. 'If I do go to the happy hunting ground, so to speak, if I go up to heaven or if I go down, I don't know where I'm going yet, the store goes to the employees, whoever's working at the time,' he said."
I don't know what happened to Mr. Baltimore and his store, why it's now a Dunkin Donuts. Baltimore's website and Facebook page has not been updated in quite some time.
In 2007, I interviewed his son, Jon Baltimore, in the family's original shop on 48th Street. He was forced to close in 2009 and moved nearby to 46th.
So what's left?
There are just two buildings on this block that still contain music shops. There's one slender brick building for Rudy's, and another for Alex Carozza's accordion shop.
Inside Carozza's, you can visit the Accordion Museum, a little showroom filled with beautiful antique accordions. Alex is a nice guy, and he'll tell you about the accordions there, each one an intricate work of art.
Rudy's has been here since 1978, and while I sometimes hear rumors of their closure, no one at the shop has ever confirmed it.
Music lover Jarrod Lynn is hoping to landmark the block. He started a Facebook page for it and tells me, "It's one of those New York places that I was sure was sacred. The thought of it being destroyed is almost totally incomprehensible to me."
But destruction is the block's most likely future. New York really needs more luxury condos and chain stores.
Talking with Jon Baltimore
Closure of Manny's