Changes to Our Waukegan & Niles Locations

September 1, 2022

Recently voted “Best Music Store of Lake County” for 2022, we’re always looking for ways to improve.

But running two fully staffed and stocked stores 7 days a week keeps us so darn busy that it’s hard to implement the million (or two!) cool ideas that we’d like to. And don’t get us started about all the guitars, ukuleles, harmonicas, sheet music, and other “little things” that keep us super busy.

So that got us thinking – what if we focused on ONE store and ONE instrument?

Golf Mill Mall in Niles = Our Premier Retail Location

We will be shifting more pianos and more people to our Golf Mill Mall location, to better serve our customers, every day of the week, 12:00 to 6:00 pm.

Here’s a few reasons why:

  • Easier Drive: Because Golf Mill Mall is an easier location for most of our customers to drive to, we’ve seen the majority of our business shift to the Niles area. (In fact, the majority of our visits to Waukegan are from people who are closer to Golf Mill Mall, but are driving out of their way to check out a specific instrument that is only at our Waukegan store.) We estimate that this move will reduce the drive-time for 80%+ of our customers
  • Better Staffing: Consistently staffing two locations with well-trained staff every single day of the week is no easy task, especially for a small business. Due to shifting availability from our current staff, we could either have one better-staffed location with our current team, or go through the difficult process of hiring, training, and retaining 2 additional full-time staff members. We’ll have more staff at the Golf Mill Mall location most days of the week, for our normal hours of 12:00 to 6:00 every day.
  • Better Selection: Rather than split our inventory across two stores, we’re going to consolidate all of our best instruments in one place, for easier comparison. And by reducing “inventory carrying costs” of fully-stocking two stores, and increasing our “sell-through rate,” it’ll help us remain financially strong and nimble, for whatever economic situations arise in the future, while keeping prices as low and competitive as we can.
  • Nicer Showroom: Our Golf Mill Mall location has a more open and spacious showroom. As we sell-off our “small stuff,” we’ll be investing in a more premium shopping experience, as we re-decorate, paint, rearrange, and redesign, to better showcase our beautiful instruments.

Waukegan Location = Our Service Center & Warehouse

Our Waukegan location will be “By Appointment Only” and will not have regular store hours, starting October 1st.

Here’s what that looks like:

  • Better Workspace: This will give our technicians significantly more room to work on more complicated piano restoration projects for our clients. And given that many of our employees live closer to Waukegan, it also gives us much needed office space that reduces commute time.
  • Budget Buys: Waukegan will be the home for our focused selection of “Budget Buy” acoustic pianos, typically offered in the $799 to $1299 range. These older American-built pianos will be tuned and prepped to appropriate standards, with 90-day warranties and 3 year trade-up options. Great budget options for beginners and families with less demanding musical needs. We’ll be finalizing this program and introducing it sometime in October.
  • Warehouse: While “Supply Chain Woes” are lessening in our industry, we still need to manage the ups-and-downs of keeping adequate stock on hand, for both new AND used instruments. We will keep our new boxed inventory here, so we don’t crowd up Golf Mill Mall with lots of cardboard boxes!
  • Connection to the Community: While some may argue that we should only look at our financial statements and completely cut ties with Waukegan, we disagree. Alice Alviani has personally been a resident of Waukegan since 1980 and Family Piano Co has proudly contributed to the community since opening our Waukegan location in 2006, almost 16 years ago. We love Lake County (and not just because we were just voted “Best Music Store”) as well as Kenosha County (not just because Brendan and Linda both personally live there). We want to remain connected to these communities, even with our more focused business model in Waukegan.

    Both Stores: Just Pianos

    All of the guitars, ukuleles, guitar strings, sheet music, and other “small stuff” adds up to less than 2% of our revenue, but waaaaay more than 2% of our time & energy.

    Ordering products, putting them on the wall, posting them to our website, training our staff so they can help customers make decisions, ringing up the sales, shipping out online sales, and then re-ordering… it’s a lot.

    And to be honest, we’d rather invest that time and energy into the main reason why most people reach out to us: for the best pianos for the best prices, with the best service.

    Plus, we like to support other local music stores, by sending them business wherever we can, like A-Major Music in Gurnee, Music Center Inc in Kenosha, and Libertyville Music.

    To make all these changes happen, we’re having a big Simplification Clearance Sale! Check out the link for all the details, then stop in to pick something up!

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    1. Margaret Staudinger

      Have you thought about using the Waukegan store as a small concert venue as well as a warehouse? It is such a perfect location in downtown Waukegan to be open for special events such as the artwalk. You could serve coffee and a small menu of desserts, maybe featuring a local bakery. I am sad to see it go as a place to visit openly. Warehouses are closed spaces, really. Music should be heard in downtown Waukegan. Just my opinion.

      • Drew

        Hey, Margaret. Thanks for the comment. (:

        It’s funny you mention concert venue. We did used to have one that doubled as a recital hall and rental space. But doing so successfully is a full-time operation that takes multiple jobs. We gave it our best go, and we had good times for sure, but we were running it at a loss.

        Similarly, we also used to have a coffee shop: Joplin’s Java. We’d make great coffee, bring in donuts, talk to lots of people in the community. But it was not our best financial decision, and it got cumbersome training/managing not just piano salespeople and technicians but then also baristas.

        So we thought about it, and we’re just going to focus on being a great piano store. The best one we can possibly be. While we’ve had lots of fun trying so many things through the years, we’re all aware they’ve been tough years. Especially being a small family-owned business, we’ve gotta put our time and efforts where it makes the most difference to everyone.

        Maybe down the line, we’ll have open events at our Waukegan location. we haven’t discussed the future of ArtWauk so it’s not a flat no. We do all agree we need more music in downtown Waukegan! And if there are any opportunities for us to support that, we will.


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