Manny's Musical Instruments, a Midtown landmark since 1935, will close its doors forever at the end of May, and the remainder of the Music Row—as the block of W. 48th Street between Seventh and Sixth Avenues is affectionately known—may soon fall like a row of dominoes.
Following up on a reader's tip, I paid a call on Manny's today and was told by a staff member that the store would shutter at the end of the May. Manny's was bought out in 1999 by Sam Ash, the musical 300-pound gorilla of Music Row and the most visible merchant on the street. A man from Sam Ash called a meeting at Manny's last Saturday and dropped the bomb that, after 74 years, Manny's would be put out of business. Some Manny's employees may be taken on by other Sam Ash stores here and in Jersey.
According to the clerk, however, that may only be the beginning of it. The folks from Rockefeller Center have apparently been buying up parts of the block, included a mammoth parking garage that lies across the street, and aim to level the entire street so that the Center can expand across Sixth Avenue. Put simply, Music Row, one of the last real vestiges of Old Times Square, will cease to exist.
Comments made by Paul Ash, president of Sam Ash Music, to The Real Deal in 2008, do not encourage one to think that Ash will put up a fight. "It's inevitable that Music Row is going to end," said Paul Ash, "One day, both of these corners will be built up like [they are] on the other end of the block, and we're just waiting for the shoe to drop."
Manny's sits on property owned by its founding family. In the same Real Deal article, Ian Goldrich, Manny's grandson, said "I get at least a call a day from someone who wants to buy the building."
Over the years, Manny's has serviced such clients as Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Buddy Holly, the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix, U2, Eric Clapton and Nirvana. This almost hurts even more than the recent news that Tin Pan Alley might be torn down, because Music Row still exists. It's alive and functioning.