Just as with any business, there is a history. Where it all started, how it started and how it became who they are today. Long before the first "Welcome to Cooper Music" ever chimed the ears of a piano buyer, the history of the Cooper Family began. For the next few months, I will share with you, every Friday a special blog, containing the history of the Cooper family and creation of Cooper Music. We hope that you enjoy reading as Cooper Music is brought to life with memories.
COOPER MUSIC: ATLANTA AND
THE FOURTH GENERATION
When the town of New Kensington PA was built, largely by the now vacated ALCOA, it was sadly, in time, only meant to be temporary. Consumed by the Rust Belt years of western Pa the town business was decaying and almost gone. Cooper Music, taken by the dynamic growth of Atlanta, reopened there in 1977. The beautiful store and memories of PA were left behind for the excitement of ATL!
To some people, a job is something that pays the bills. However, to Blake and Jolie the job is more, it’s their life. Blake, and sister Jolie Cooper are the fourth generation of Coopers to own and operate the 1906 establishment, Cooper Music, is one of America’s largest and most respected music retailers. It’s only logical that music would be more than a job for this generation. Blake, bass player and singer in numerous rock bands in his youth, began working at age ten when the family store was in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. At that time, Cooper Music sold virtually everything music-related. Blake, who became company president in 1992, recalled, “We did it all then. What ever was hot, guitars, organs, bongo drums, it was there. We offered every thing musical.” And so Blake, who recalls sitting in the boiler room of the Cooper building in PA, cleaning horns upon their return from rent and Jolie, after schooling designed and painted store interiors in Atlanta. Not exactly glamorous work, they admit, but it showed them how to care for customers… and how owners must be ready to perform any job. That goes with the territory.
In 1906 Jonathan Cooper founded the business, known as Cooper Brothers Inc. A former coal mine carpenter, he utilized his woodworking skills to craft and sell pump organs. Then, year-by-year, new products (including pianos) and services (such as restoring them) were added. The growth of Cooper Music always had been evolutionary; creating a solid foundation that carried the company through good times and bad. Economic changes in the industrial north coupled with great business opportunities in the south brought the company to Atlanta.
Even today, that ability to change with the times… has served Cooper Music well. For instance, Blake Cooper attributes his company’s current success to a decision in the early 1990s to pull back from Atlanta mall stores of the 1970s and ’80s, and to place renewed emphasis on pianos and organs and teaching programs such as Music and Wellness.
Why the shift? Actually, the company always had done well with its piano business, Cooper explains, even during the Great Depression and World War II, when new instruments were rare or nonexistent. “That was when our restoration business really began to grow,” he says. “Most people didn’t have the money for a new piano… even if they could have found one during the war. Restoring the piano you already had was the alternative."
The art of restoring superbly crafted, antique pianos still holds a special place at Cooper Music, now the Southeast’s largest piano restorer. “I love those old pianos,” says Cooper! ” They are unparalleled in detail and quality craftsmanship. It’s an incredible feeling to see those amazing instruments come back to life."
Blake Cooper, seeing how the business had changed, knew that a shift in product strategy was needed if Cooper Music was to grow. That’s when he consolidated the company’s operations, folding the mall stores into one 8800+ square-foot superstore with three showrooms, rental department and the Liberty Theatre concert hall. There are numerous studios for group and private music lessons. On the Cooper Music campus are branch Music and Wellness teaching studios and piano restoration shops.
“The main reason this century old company has survived has been our family’s willingness to change,” says Cooper. “I guess it’s a family tradition that started with my grandfather John Cooper, who in the north, used to sell boats in the summer when the music business slowed down. We’ve always been able to tighten our belts when necessary.”
Today consumers can browse through a huge inventory of new, used, and restored pianos, as well as digital pianos and church organs. With about 30 brands on hand, Cooper Music is the exclusive dealer for displaying the largest selection of pianos and organs in the Southeast.
A shining star of Cooper Music’s game plan is the Cooper Music Rental Program, which Blake Cooper expanded shortly after taking the company helm. This program allows people to rent any piano they like and try it out at home, for a monthly fee as low as $25. “With the pace and changes in life style, we find people have increased the desire for life’s finer things…including pianos,” says Cooper. “This program makes that desire affordable. Research has proven the value of music in childhood brain development. The Cooper Rental Program is ideal for parents who want to give their child an opportunity to play the piano before leaping into a major investment. Later, if a customer decides to buy the instrument, rental fees can be applied toward the purchase. There is no purchase obligation or time limits, he adds."