Don Thumel, owner of NW Piano Gallery, started studying organ and piano at the age of 4 and started teaching by age 12. In addition to spending years touring in a jazz duo, he also served as an assistant music director at Disneyland, a pianist for the Don Ellis Big Band, a concert organist for Hammond and Conn Organ Corporations, and as a composer and arranger.

Don’s first store, Keyboard Associates, was originally located inside the Oakway Mall. When the Mall went through an extensive renovation in the late 90’s, the store moved to Delta Oaks shopping center (next to Rodda Paint).

The next incarnation for Don came when he purchased a building near Autzen Stadium. Because his business had started offering more than just keyboard products (guitars, amps, recording gear, etc.), combined with an increased need for floor space, a new business name was established – Musician’s Depot.

After about 10 years operating as Musician’s Depot, Don harnessed an opportunity to acquire inventory from several major piano manufacturers that consisted primarily of pianos the manufacturers had supplied for movie and television props, convention demo models, factory cosmetic blems and, sometimes, a piano that had been used by someone famous in concert.

Seeking to market these pianos independently, Don opened the first Piano Liquidators in The Woodburn Company Stores in Woodburn, OR. Success there allowed expansion into the Salem market a year later.

In 2004, with the success of Piano Liquidators, coupled with the onslaught of Internet marketing and not wishing to compete just selling boxes, Don decided to refocus on his root business (pianos and keyboards) and to downsize the footprint of the store. It was then that the store moved to the corner of 7th and Washington in Eugene and also changed the Eugene store’s name from Musician’s Depot to Piano Liquidators.

Over the ensuing 10 years, a lot changed in the music products market. Much of the change was based on the Internet’s impact on retail, but availability of the special manufacturer’s inventory had become slim to the point that the same business model could not be maintained.

When the market changes, you change as well. So, with fewer and fewer people continuing or learning to play, combined with an upward trend for many people to downsize and/or go into retirement living, this created an opportunity to selectively acquire and offer high-quality used instruments.

Another observation was that customers were more interested in quality at a great price vis-a-vis beautiful showrooms. This was witnessed by the fact that Steinway & Sons had closed virtually all of their Steinway Halls (they referred to them as “palaces”). With that focus in mind, in addition to knowing that over half the pianos exchanged every year are through private parties (typically in a home setting), Don decided to close the downtown Eugene Piano Liquidators location and relocate in a residential area of Santa Clara, renaming it NW Piano Gallery.

As it turned out, this was a good move on several levels. First, by reducing overhead, it reduced the end price of the pianos to the customer. Second, the location allows for buyers to actually hear the piano in a setting that will more closely resemble their own home’s acoustics, rather than in a 4000+ square foot showroom with 16′ foot ceilings.

NW Piano Gallery is no longer the multi-location, 20+ employee, chain that it once was . . . but it is still operated by its original founder, Don Thumel, who remains in the business for the love of pianos.

When you stop by, don’t expect grandiose displays or high pressure sales tactics. Expect  to find some great pianos to audition and someone who is eager to find just the right one for you!