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KCBS Cover Story: Longtime SF Music Store Closes Up Shop

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(Music Center of San Francisco)

(Music Center of San Francisco)

DougSovern20100908_KCBS_0208r Doug Sovern
Doug began his career as a copy boy at the New York Times, and then...
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The song is over for the Music Center of San Francisco, which sold sheet music and other supplies to Bay Area musicians for decades.

The Union Square institution is closing up shop, another victim of the Internet economy, as people weren’t buying enough sheet music at Warren Leong’s store anymore.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

“It’s the end of an era for I think anything printed. Everything from magazines to newspapers to any printed product,” Leong said. “It’s so easy to download nowadays and a lot of people can buy it online.”

So after 45 years, Leong’s packed up the last musical score, stacked up the songbooks and closed the Music Center, two floors above Powell Street off Union Square.

“Most of my customers are very sad that we’re going because they like browsing. You can’t browse online, but you can browse when you come here,” said Leong. “And the knowledge that our clerks and I have on the publishers, editions and what the page looks like for many of these editions, you can’t get online. That’s the kind of customer service that will be gone in the future for most businesses that go as an online business.”

Leong would help singers find the right key on his piano so they’d know what music to buy. Katie, a longtime customer at the shop, said Amazon can’t do that.

“I’m very sad. It’s been an institution in San Francisco and I’m going to miss it a lot,” she said.

Pianist Alex Dura laments the loss of the human element, too.

“That’s kind of tough because I usually prefer to go to the store instead of going online and buying something,” Dura said.

Popular, classical, showtunes, the Music Center of San Francisco had it all.

“Probably the top two selling songs were My Heart Would Go On, which went on for four or five years, and The Entertainer,” said Leong. “I must have sold thousands of those over the years.”

Leong will retire and someone else will rent the space, another brick-and-mortar business gone. But Leong doesn’t want to end on a downbeat note, saying “life will go on.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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