New York loses its last classical music sheet store

New York loses its last classical music sheet store


norman lebrecht

March 03, 2015

Frank’s will shut on Friday, the WSJ reports.

That’s all folks.

It could be a question of attitude. One regular customer tells us: ‘I never liked Franks personally—-you are not permitted to browse, and must request what you want from the shopkeeper.’


frank music


  • Sixtus says:

    The Juilliard bookstore, which carries a far wider range of sheet music, books and recordings than is required by Juilliard courses, is still open, both online and at their rather large storefront at Lincoln Center. It is the last, best refuge in the city for browsing classical sheet music and scores.

  • Opus 111 says:

    Attitude? Ridiculous assertion: Frank’s Music had EVERYTHING! The shop-keeper was very knowledgeable, and it was by far the finest sheet-music store in Manhattan, and one of the best in the world. And, where else could you buy not only sheet-music, but farm-fresh eggs??? The sad reality is that such stores can no longer survive, thanks to the internet.

    • Brian b says:

      Not allowing customers to browse the wares is foolish. One of the great joys is perusing the shelves and making unexpected discoveries. It’s one of the perks of the brick and mortar experience. A great many of my scores were purchases made after browsing or while looking for something else. Speaking of farm fresh eggs, imagine a grocery store that didn’t allow customers to roam the shelves or produce aisles. It’s arrogant. They’d go out of business very quickly.

      • Dan P. says:

        Well, whatever not being able to browse is, that was just how it was set up once they moved into the Sofia storage building. When I went there, there was only one person working there at any time – and their stock was arranged warehouse style. That was how they were able to keep such a large stock. Just not enough personnel to handling wandering browsers. Patelson’s had nearly a dozen employees for their small shop. But, what you might miss in browsing you gained in knowing that they’d almost always have exactly what you were looking for – not always true about Patelson’s. And, if you were looking for specific editions, that was the place to go if you needed it right away. At the age of 18, I bought my first copy of Wozzeck there and went back many times for off-the-beaten path works when I just couldn’t wait. And, sometimes the old man would gave you an unwritten discount – at least to a kid in the early 70s.

  • JAMA11 says:

    I, also, couldn’t stand this place. The fact that Patelson’s closed years ago but Frank Music kept going boggles my mind.

    • Keyboardmaven says:

      Patelson’s never had what I wanted “We don’t carry that” was their pat answer. But at Frank’s music, no matter how esoteric my request, she would march into the stacks and find whatever I asked for! Their space simply wasn’t set up for browsing (it was on the 10th floor of an office building), but they were in business since 1936.

    • Ross says:

      Patelson’s was terrible.
      The worst employees I’ve ever seen.
      The front desk guy loved to sit there reading his newspaper and never noticed that there were 6 people standing in line, ready to pay.
      The lady who answered the phone would say she was going to go and look if they had the music you were looking for, and then she would never come back to the phone.
      I would take Frank’s any day over Patelson’s.
      Frank’s DID have an area up front where you could browse through music.


    Another piece of my musical life in New York disappears. I always had a very positive experience at Frank’s. And, yes, the Juilliard Bookstore is quite good But this is like the passing of and old friend and signals our own sense of mortality.

  • Joseph Anderer says:

    I guess not many of us remember “Frank” of Frank Music, but he was Frank Marx, and it was he who established the business Heidi bought as well as the “no-browse” system- the shop was set up pretty much like Heidi’s in a warehouse on Columbus Avenue across the street from Lincoln Center. I bought a LOT of music from him as a student and later on (for very cheap!) and I also did some editions for him when he was at International Music (although I don’t think it was because I was a good customer, which I was!). I never liked the no-browse setup, but there is a certain justification for it, and I still bought a lot of my music from him (and later from Heidi). Patelson’s was, quite frankly, never worth a shit if you were looking for something specific, although I found a lot of great stuff while browsing there (for you younger folks, browsing is when you look through a lot of stuff a merchant stocks for your perusal and you pick out what’s of interest to you- you find a lot of things you never knew you needed and you learn a LOT!- this is more-or-less ancient history now).

    I’m so sorry to see the closing of this wonderful shop- I wish I had been a better customer (I really have most of the music I’ll ever need at this point in my life, thanks to Mr. Marx and Patelson), although I sent my students to Heidi whenever I could and I always went there when I needed something. I wish Heidi all the best, but am very saddened by this turn of events!

  • MARY SOILEX says:

    FRANKS was a wonderful store, and yes there were always some bins to browse,
    The prices were not always bargain based but HEIDI was a saint, the sweetest woman who made anyone feel at home., She did not suffer fools, however.

    It is a huge loss to the classical music community of NEW YORK, and of the
    world, in my opinion

  • Farhan Malik says:

    Where will we go now when we want to pay a 30% mark up over retail?

  • SVM says:

    I have never been to the store in question, but I am guessing that the so-called “no-browsing” rule would have arisen from a shortage of space. The simple fact of the matter is that open shelving is a less efficient form of storage than closed stacks, so, if you are running a shop in an area where the rent is high and your business is run on the basis of having everything in stock, there is no alternative (short of renting more space and consequently having to raise prices).

    Here in London, there is an excellent music shop that occupies a very small property in Cecil Court (Travis & Emery) that keeps much of its stock behind the counter. As for the browsable area, it is, to say the least, rather cosy! However, it has some remarkable bargains for second-hand scores.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    I remember going to 47th Street Photo years ago and having a similar, browsing-verboten experience. Surprised, I asked a friend about the place. ‘All you do is browse round another photo shop to find what you’re looking for, then you go to 47th St. and buy it from them’. I see their website is as cold as their welcome, but they’re still there, so…

  • baron z says:

    The point people should be taking from this sad news is that a sheet music store that specialized in chamber music stayed in business all this time. It proves there is a clientele and that they are faithful to skilled assistance. There was much music she did not carry. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to make it work. And there are even some off-beat buildings in Manhattan that cater to creative professions, like 250 West 54th Street, where the store was the last time I went there. Of course, music lovers are tough customers, so we may have only ourselves to blame for so many closures. There was another music store in the theater district, inside an office building, little known, but there for insiders, same set-up, you come to the counter and tell them what you want, and they bring it to you. It doesn’t mean you can’t browse, it means they will help you locate what you need, if you can say what it is.
    So stop complaining and raise some capital and open another store!

  • baron z says:

    I stand corrected, having read the WSJ article. Nevertheless, superior service can compete with the oh-so inferior internet sites. Sometimes it takes fresh energy and investment. I certainly hope stores will make a comeback, because it is impossible to get just what you want on the internet. Teachers have a responsibility to make certain their students understand that they must patronize stores. But, the way intelligence is declining, maybe we should just give in and let Silicon Valley destroy civilization faster than atom bombs. After trying to watch the movie “The Interview,” I think it is hopeless. At least in the USA.