09 April 2009

Joseph Patelson Music House May Close in a Week

The Joseph Patelson Music House, which traces its history back 89 years, and has long had a place on W. 56th Street near Carnegie Hall, may close in a week's time.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, of all publications—taking a Philly Orchestra angle—reported recently that clerks are anxious and shelves are increasingly bare at the musicians' resource. Said one clerk, "There’s no definite timetable. If I had to say, the end of the year." Marsha Patelson, owner of the store and a cellist, did not return the paper's phone calls.

However, a well-placed source tells Lost City that the store will likely close in a week's time.

It's still a family business. It began as the Half-Price Music Shop on Cooper Square, run by one Ernest Cook. Cook hired a student named Joseph Patelson, and left the business to him when he died in 1939. Patelson died in 1992, leaving the store to son Dan Patelson. That Patelson died in 2004, and his widow, Marsha, took over. Over the years, the business has moved to W. 59th Street, then 57th, the 56th, then, in 1947, another building on 56th, where it's been ever since.

I needn't point out that this news come hot of the heels of dire warnings as to the future of Music Row and Tin Pan Alley. In it's time, New York City has created much of the world's most lasting music. Does anyone care about this heritage anymore? Does City Hall? It seems not.


Anonymous said...

It is indeed closing. From MusicalAmerica.com:

Storied House of Music to Close Its Doors
By Susan Elliott
April 8, 2009

As its dwindling inventory has long implied, the Joseph Patelson Music House is closing its doors. The projected date is April 18; with a 35% sale going on (more for students), everything is “going fast,” according to one staffer. The store’s website will also shut down.

Asked if the business had been sold, with the possibility of a continued life under another ownership, the staffer responded in the negative.

Patelson’s was founded precisely 70 years ago, in 1939, and moved to its current location on 56th Street, across from the backstage entrance of Carnegie Hall, in 1940. It is the last bricks-and-mortar outlet in Manhattan devoted exclusively to sheet music.

Most of the sheet music business has moved to the Web, where one can either download scores with a credit card, or order them. Last month, G. Schirmer began to put its downloadable orchestral scores on line free of charge, for perusal purposes.

Anonymous said...


Our Mayor who gives a lot of charity
to the arts seems not to care about
our musical history as it regards
the closure of small musical supply businesses that are the ammunition for the musical arts.

Tin Pan Alley is still an unknown as
to what may transpire on 28th street.

Meantime I will treasure the gray envelopes with the lute and sheet music drawings I have saved from
the Patelson Music House.

This is shocking news,perhaps
our city feels another CVS or Duane Reade drug store is needed?

Anonymous said...

This seems sad, but they were never interested in any kind of customer service, and they never had anything in stock. If they were as interested in actually being a viable place to buy music instead of being a "landmark" that should be venerated by anyone who walks in the door, things might be different.

Anonymous said...

Although it is very sad that Patelson's is closing, it should be noted that it is not the last brick and mortar store left in NYC. Frank Music has had an exaustive selection of classical music for almost as long as Patelson's. They are still going strong on the 10th floor at 244 W 54th Street. The Juilliard Bookstore also does a pretty good job at Lincoln Center.

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of these most recent postings. I went to Patelson's when I first moved to NYC, and they were exceedingly uninformed on contemporary music scores. Looking for relatively common works of the 20th century was impossible there. I was told by a staffer that they only cared about the three B's (Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms). Since then, I've done all my shopping at Frank Music. Heidi knows all there is to know, gives excellent advice on edition selection, and can order the occasional random thing she doesn't have in stock. Go shop at Frank's!!!! We REALLY need to make sure they stay open.

hooran said...

I too regret the loss of Patelson - I remember Schirmer's, Carl Fisher's,and closer to home, in Yorkville, Mrs. Brown. I also remember when everyone played an instrument; music was meant to be owned by amateurs as well as pros. Franks is fabulous and of the high standard of artistic excellence and knowledgeability which is vanishing, but it is not for the amateur browser. Do support Franks. Maybe Juilliard will fill in the vacuum.

Anonymous said...

the word on Franks is that she keeps things in stock, but you will pay for them--meaning they are marked up in price.

Juilliard keeps a decent inventory. They really need to get back into a normal retail space (still in the trailer due to construction)

Colony has some classical stock, but mostly in the form of anthologies. You cannot go there looking for a Beethoven piano concerto, in other words.

I think there is room in NYC for a store like Patelson's. It just has to be run effectively.

tocnyc said...

Franks has the inventory, but there is a significant price mark up involved. Juilliard has potential, but needs to get back into a regular space (still in the trailer due to construction). Colony has generic classical offerings, such as anthologies, and also a smattering of opera scores. I still think there is room for a store like Patelson's. It would just have to be run by somebody with a clue.

Jerome Harris said...

One of the things I appreciated about Patelson is their selling used music at discounted prices; this was great for folks like me: working musicians with (sometimes) limited budgets who periodically want materials for study purposes which don't always merit paying full price. Frank Music's website doesn't indicate that they carry used stock; I don't see method books there either (although they state that the site does not list everything they sell).

Anonymous said...

Since moving to the midwest, I looked forward to my "pilgrimage" to Patelson's every summer. While I agree their lack of customer service was a concern, the wealth of used scores and music often made up for that. I will trek a little farther to Franks now, but I will miss the old homestead.

Unknown said...

I was in total shock when I found out that Patelson Music House is no longer in business during my recent visit to NYC. In fact, I still have a few of its simple but classy business cards in my violin case. It is big loss to the classical music world. Thanks for the memory!!!!!

some one said...

Cool download "Joseph Patelson Music House May Close in a Week"

keyboardkat said...

I have really begun to hate this new digital world in which there is less and less room for interaction. How many times I ran into former teachers and colleagues in the store, and found rare scores there! And what will become of classical music when people resort to texting instead of conversation, everything is in sound bites, and no one has time to think? People now have the attention spans of ashtrays. Where is the room for classical music, which is by nature introspective?