Words: Hannah Gingrich
Photos: Caitlin McBride
When I first heard about the Piano Warehouse, I immediately pictured a large, cold room that had poor lighting and smelled like Pledge—not unlike my grandfathers old basement out of which, coincidentally, he also sold pianos. However, as soon as I walked in, I was pleasantly surprised. Rick Feck, the store's owner, was helping a customer, so I spent some time looking around at all the unique and beautiful pianos.
The room was large and well-lit, and pianos were placed back-to-back along the walls. I peeked through a large door into the back space where they repair, restore, and maintain all sorts of pianos. It was a large room full of deconstructed piano hulls, and an assortment of keys, strings and delicate piano pieces. As Rick and I sat down to talk, he told me how he grew up in Long Beach, California. While in college, he worked at Disneyland in their fine arts department.
How did you get involved working on pianos?
Well, my wife and I met in ceramics class back in college and her dad asked me to work at his piano store during the slow season at Disney. I would surf, then go polish pianos, and help sell them. Once we moved to Colorado Springs, I met up with a blind dude who taught tuning and piano restoration at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. He taught me pretty much everything I know about restoring and rebuilding pianos. He’d come hang out at the shop while we were restoring a piano and show us how to do it.
How did you go from surfing in Long Beach, to living in Colorado Springs?
My girlfriend and I worked at her dad's store for a few years, then got married. We took a two month honeymoon in a trailer along the backside of the Rocky Mountains, from Mexico up to Canada, then over and down the coast. We visited Colorado Springs along the way and loved it, it was a boomtown when we first moved here.
How long have you been in business?
We’ve been around since ‘95 and at this location for about eight years now. This building used to be a punk rock venue back in the nineties for touring bands, and it was vacant for a number of years before we moved in. Before that, we were up on North Tejon. There were several warehouses where we stored the pianos, but those are closed now due to the economy.
There are so many unique pianos here, which is your favorite?
"My favorite would have to be the nine-foot Steinway that used to be the Broadmoor’s. It’s a ‘61 and it has amazing tone."
My favorite would have to be the nine-foot Steinway that used to be the Broadmoor’s. It’s a ‘61 and it has amazing tone. The older Steinways are better because their sound gets better with age. The oldest piano we have is from around 1887 and it's in pristine condition. We also have a piano that belonged to the great jazz musician, Johnny Smith. We bought it from his son at an auction after Johnny passed away. Colorado has so many unique pianos compared to California. My guess is that when the cowboys and pioneers moved out West, they didn’t want to haul them over the mountains and just left 'em.
What would you do if you weren’t selling and restoring pianos?
I would like to sail; pull into harbor in San Francisco for awhile, then sail up the coast and see the aurora borealis. Pianos are a great business and I love it. It's all I know how to do, and I feel like I’m always learning something new.
How are you involved in the community?
My team is all subcontracted and we conglomerate together in the shop and trade tips and tricks. We also do a lot of work for the Broadmoor and Colorado College (CC). We’re always over at CC doing work on their pianos and keeping them tuned.
Rick is essentially spurring on a community of successful rebuilders, restorers, and refinishers.
Rick is essentially spurring on a community of successful rebuilders, restorers, and refinishers. As we sat and talked, he highlighted how he had been interviewed about the City for Champions project that would include building four major attractions: The Air Force Academy Visitors Center, a Sports and Medicine Performance Center powered by UCCS, a Sports and Events Center in Southwest Downtown, and a United States Olympic Museum. According to the City for Champions website,“These venues will attract new out-of-state visitors, extend visitor trips, and improve quality of life for residents of the Pikes Peak region and the state.” The Piano Warehouse is essentially where home plate for the Sports Center would rest. Rick and I discussed how we liked the Champions idea, the culture and tourism it would add to downtown, but agreed it would be sad to see this building torn down. As Rick explained, the Piano Warehouse would just move to a new location, but he seemed uneasy with the thought of having to do that.
The Piano Warehouse is not just a building, not just a shop, but a gathering place for a community of piano restorers, craftsmen, and musicians. Plus, it's a great place to find a unique and well-cared-for piano.
Come join Colorado Collective on Valentine's Day for a wonderful evening at the Piano Warehouse. There will be plenty of food and drinks, live music, good company, and beautiful pianos. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased here
120 Cucharras Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903