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Sad finale as historic Camden Town piano shop Heckscher & Company goes online only

Managing director Martin Heckscher of Heckscher & Company. Picture: Polly Hancock Managing director Martin Heckscher of Heckscher & Company. Picture: Polly Hancock

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
4:00 PM

In yet another reflection of the changing nature of our high streets, it was with sadness that I learned that one of the country’s most historic piano restoration shops will close its doors next month.

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Despite attracting the likes of superstar Jazz pianist Jamie Cullum to his shop, Martin Heckscher, director of Heckscher & Company, says a lack of demand for piano restoration has forced him to take his business online-only.

The store in Bayham Street, Camden Town, was opened by his great-grandfather in 1883 and was featured on Jamie’s BBC documentary on piano makers in January.

“I’m sad about it, of course, but there’s a sense of inevitability too,” says 62-year-old Mr Heckscher, who took over the business in 1971. “The piano industry has shrunk so much in recent times that it would have been impossible to keep running it.”

The Dickensian warehouse is steeped in history, as Camden Town and Kentish Town were hubs of activity for musical instrument suppliers and had more than 100 piano makers in the late 19th century.

“The piano industry is downsizing – there’s no longer a market for restoration,” says Mr Heckscher.

“We’re only making a tiny handful of pianos a year. They’re all being manufactured in China these days.

“You have to adapt to the changing markets.”

The business will continue to run from the owner’s Hertfordshire home as a mail-order operation for piano parts.

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