Herter 100yrs of History

Welcome to Herter Music Center and thanks for visiting our History page. We'd like to spend a few moments to tell you about how the Music Center came to be!

After serving an apprenticeship for several years in a music store in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, Herman Hardy opened a small piano and organ store in Standish in 1903.  Hardy operated that store for about 13 years selling pianos and organs throughout northern Michigan. 
Standish Location
Deliveries in those days were made by horse and wagon, and many times over roads that were nothing but logging trails through the big woods. The pictures show how pianos were "peddled, sold and delivered" in mustache-cup and livery-stable days.

About 1916, a man who had been tuning and repairing for Hardy and who lived in Bay City said he thought he could sell some pianos there. He wanted to know if he could try it on a commission basis. Hardy agreed. The tuner proceeded to sell so many pianos that he persuaded Hardy to open a small store on a side street in Bay City, to be operated in conjunction with the store in Standish. The volume of business grew so that Hardy found it necessary to spend more and more time in Bay City. The possibilities of doing business in a larger, more populous community became gradually more apparent and attractive to Hardy so he closed the Standish store and concentrated in Bay City.

In October 1917, Hardy found it necessary to move to a larger, more elaborate quarters on Center Avenue. Through most of the next three decades the scope of his operations gradually expanded with the changing times to include phonographs, records, radios and later home appliances.
In the next few years, an urge to create a even more extensive store and also an
establishment which would differ radically from the accepted, standardized type of music house began to take hold of Hardy. The ideas for this new type of store evolved from years of experience in musical merchandising. Hardy felt that his store was different in another respect too - the treatment of customers, anyone who walks in the front door regardless of  whether he buys or not. Hardy used low-pressure sales methods.  They didn't close their eyes to the value and necessity  of making sales, but low-pressure selling, properly handled, can be more effective and much more pleasant. The percentage of sales to "drop-ins" is convincing proof. They carefully trained and imbued their sales people with those principles.

Hardy tried to impart a pleasant, homelike atmosphere to his store so as make shopping a final decision as "painless" as possible for the customer.

Low pressure sales
Hardy bought the Center Ave building about two years later in 1919, remodeled and decorated the music-store part of the building. They carried a variety of musical instruments such as Connsonata electronic organ; pianos were Cable Nelson, Everett, Gulbransen, Jesse French and Story & Clark; radios were Stromberg Carlson, RCA Victor,
Center Ave Location General Electric, Wilcox Gay Recordio, Brunswick, Artley, Majestic, Bendix, Admiral and Stewart-Warner.

Hardy moved his Center Ave location to 309 Third street in December of 1947, a bigger building just 3 blocks away which he shared with a Cadillac dealership.

Music Store Changed Hands

September 18, 1952.

Phil Herter, a former music teacher from Michigan Center High School near Jackson and who had a Bachelors and Masters degrees in music from the University of Michigan and Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music moved to Bay City and at the time Hardy had put the business up for sale. Phil took over the business September 1st and then purchased the business from Herman Hardy on the 18th. Several weeks later, Phil added a TV center along with a new band and orchestra instrument section.  With his own background and personal experience driving him, offering the new band and orchestra sections only seemed a natural thing to do. Along with the new sections, and his background in teaching, he opened a new school of music and housed the lessons in the second floor studios.

Several years later Phil changed the name from The Hardy Music Co. to The Music Center. Since he bought the business in 1952, he has moved twice to larger quarters in Bay City - once to the Davidson Building and eventually in 1963 to the present location at Washington Ave and Fifth Street.

Fashion Square Mall Since 1963, Herters had also established a store in Midland and in downtown Saginaw. Eventually the Midland location closed its doors.  In 1972 the downtown Saginaw store moved to Fashion Square mall, also in Saginaw. Then in 1982, finding the mall location not large enough, the company began construction of a new 7,000 square foot location just down the road from the mall on Tittabawassee Rd. The Saginaw location has survived in a 
trade once peppered with competition. Grinnell's, which closed its downtown Saginaw store in 1976, went bankrupt in 1981. Gridley Music Center shut its door in Saginaw Township in 1983, and Whitehead Music Service Inc. closed its store in Thomas Township in 1994. New Saginaw Building

In July 1981, Herter Music Center ventured into a larger market and opened a location in a strip mall on Linden Rd in Flint Michigan. This brought in sales from Lansing to Port Huron and as far south as Detroit. As business grew, so did the need for a larger building. In the spring of 1987, Herter's began construction of a 7,000 square foot building on Miller Rd between I-75 and the Genesee Valley Mall and in February 1988 they opened their doors. The Flint store stayed open for 28 years before finally closing due to a struggling area economy from local automotive factories shutting down and unemployment rising.

Truly a Family Business
Over the years, generations of Herter family members have worked for the business. Fred, Phil's oldest child, has worked for the business since he was a young boy and eventually took over as president of the company in 1985. Phil's daughter Deborah Downing, has worked for the business since she was 16 years old, performing many tasks behind the scenes in the office and also took over as Vice President. Phil's wife June, worked in the record department and small goods. New Saginaw Building

Phil, chairman of the board, and his wife still own stock in the company. All family members have participated in management and operations. Fred's wife Genie, works in the office doing Data Entry. Fred's oldest daughter Natalie Martinez serves as store manager for the Bay City location. Natalie's husband Ernie, managed the Flint location before it closed. Deborah's daughter Heather Leser is manager of the Sheet Music Department as well as coordinates Band Camp. Heather's husband Terry performs tasks from computer administration to piano delivery.

The term 'Family Business' means more to the Music Center than just the Herter Family running the operations though. Being involved in community events over the years and wanting to be part of the lives of the customers who purchased from them, they thought they should also look internal. The Music Center has hired sons and daughters of employees over the years.

More than just a Music Center 
P&O Caboose

New Saginaw Building
To further be a part of the community and provide a "unique" service, the music center constructed a smaller version of a railroad coach, fondly referred to as the "P&O Keyboose". The keyboose housed a piano and an organ and traveled to homes to provide lessons to a variety of students.

Throughout the years, Herter Music Center has participated in many community events such as parades and fund raisers.
 One such event has been reoccurring for over 20 years is Band Camp.  Band Camp allows sixth, seventh and eighth grade music students to spend one week refining their music expertise. Camp first started at Delta College, but eventually the Music Center worked with the YMCA of Saginaw and took it to the YMCA's Camp Timbers location in West Branch. Students not only spent the week working on music, but also spent time enjoying themselves with activities such as swimming, horseback riding and campfires.

We hope you enjoyed your trip down our memory lane.  Thanks for taking the time to read over our nostalgic and illustrious past.