Beloved 100-Year-Old Musical Instrument Store To Close After Filing For Bankruptcy

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: May 10, 2024

In 1924, Sam Ash opened its doors, starting a century-long journey that became a cornerstone of American music retail. Now, this iconic store has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is planning to close all 42 locations.

This marks a end to a beloved institution that has equipped countless musicians. “Launched by my grandparents in 1924, Sam Ash is one of the best-known brands in U.S. musical instrument retailing,” reflected CEO David Ash.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Retail

The pandemic drastically reduced foot traffic, heavily impacting retail stores like Sam Ash. As online shopping gained dominance, traditional stores struggled to adapt. This shift was particularly harsh for Sam Ash, which had thrived on in-person customer engagement.

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A shopping cart with money next to a laptop in front of a purple backdrop

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“Sam Ash has been heavily dependent on in-store traffic,” noted Jordan Meyers, chief restructuring officer, highlighting the pandemic’s role in their challenges.

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Financial Struggles Lead to Bankruptcy

Facing declining sales and substantial debt, Sam Ash’s financial woes culminated in a bankruptcy filing. Owing approximately $20 million to suppliers and landlords, the retailer’s situation grew untenable.

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A person holding money in front of a computer that has a graph on with green and red lines mostly going up

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“The company has $20 million in unpaid debts to musical instrument suppliers,” Meyers wrote, underscoring the severity of their financial crisis.

Nationwide Store Closings Announced

The decision to close all stores reflects the harsh realities of modern retail. These closures will affect states from Florida to California, impacting employees and musicians who relied on Sam Ash for their financial and musical needs.

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A hand-written sign on a glass door reading 'SORRY WE ARE NOW CLOSED' in bold, black letters on a yellow background, taped up with four pieces of duct tape

Source: Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

The closures represent a significant shift in the musical landscape, removing a familiar presence from local communities.

Liquidation Sales Offer Rare Opportunities

With the stores closing, Sam Ash’s inventory — ranging from high-end guitars to entry-level instruments — is being liquidated.

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A guitar sitting on an amplifier.

Source: Simon Weisser/Unsplash

“This is the kind of inventory that rarely, if ever, is available in a blowout sale,” stated Michael McGrail, COO of Tiger Group. This presents a unique chance for musicians to acquire quality instruments at lower prices.

Exploring Future Options

Amidst liquidation, Sam Ash looks to the future, considering the sale of its e-commerce operations and wholesale business. This strategy could preserve the Sam Ash legacy in a digital format, continuing to serve the musical community online.

Bankruptcy written in black text on white paper on a wooden table

Source: Pix4Free

“We believe that a restructuring…is the best path forward,” said David Ash, indicating a hopeful yet uncertain future.

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The Legacy of Sam Ash

From a small Brooklyn shop to a national chain, Sam Ash’s growth mirrors American and music industry history.

Wall of guitars

Source: Sam Ash/Facebook

Its resilience through the Great Depression and World War II, and adaptation during the digital age speak volumes about its legacy.

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A Family Business Through Generations

Four generations of the Ash family have poured their hearts into this business, creating a welcoming environment for every customer.

A customer paying at a register.

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The “Come and Play” ethos invited musicians to not just shop but be part of a community. This familial touch is what made Sam Ash a beloved institution.

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The Role of Sam Ash in Music History

Sam Ash didn’t just sell musical instruments — it supported the evolution of music genres from rock n’ roll to hip hop.

Sam Ash employee talking with man with guitar

Source: Sam Ash/Facebook

It equipped beginners and professionals alike, influencing music education and the arts across the U.S.

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Community and Customer Impact

The closure of Sam Ash is a significant blow to its employees, customers, and the wider music community.

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Source: Freepik

“Sam Ash would like to thank all of our associates, customers, and business partners for their dedication and continued support through these unprecedented times,” shared David Ash, expressing gratitude and sorrow.

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What's Next for Music Retail?

The fall of Sam Ash signals a possible future for music retail, emphasizing online sales and perhaps some, but significantly fewer brick-and-mortar stores.

Source: Sam Ash/Facebook

This could reshape how musicians buy instruments and interact with brands, potentially leading to more globalized but less personal shopping experiences.

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Remembering a Music Retail Giant

As Sam Ash stores close their doors, the music community reflects on the impact of a retailer that has been a part of the musical fabric of America for a century.

greyscale #samash banner

Source: Sam Ash/Facebook

The end of Sam Ash is a bittersweet turning of a page in music retail history.

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