Thiel’s Music Center, a staple in downtown Astoria since 1974, has closed its Commercial Street store but hopes to reopen at a different location this summer.
A sign on the window states that the store is moving to a sister shop in Longview, Washington. But employee Rick Weiler, who helps manage the Longview store, said owner Rick Holt “really likes Astoria and he wants another store back up and running.”
Holt has already filled out an application for a new location in Astoria, according to Weiler. Holt was not available for comment.
Holt, who bought the business from the Thiel family in 2000, decided to close the Commercial Street store following the sale of the Osburn-O’Brien Building to developer Joe Barnes earlier this year.
The bottom floor of the Osburn-O’Brien Building, located on 14th Street between Commercial and Duane streets, is home to Allstate Insurance, Bridge & Tunnel Bottleshop and Taproom and Creations Studio and Gallery in addition to Thiel’s.
When he took ownership of the building, Barnes said the music store was the only business he did not have a lease with or a deposit on file.
The per-square-footage rent Holt paid was below market value, Barnes said, and Barnes has a rent requirement with his lender. Holt decided to let go of the space rather than rent it at the higher rate Barnes offered.
“We just couldn’t come to terms with Thiel’s Music,” Barnes said.
"The music business isn't doing that well," Weiler said, speaking generally. For Thiel's, a rent increase would have been a dramatic change to weather. Rent was expected to go up again next year, Weiler said.
Barnes said Holt was paying less than 60 cents per square foot, and what he was offered remained under a dollar per square foot.
Barnes does not have a tenant to replace Thiel’s yet. He hopes to remodel the space, removing a drop ceiling and uncovering boarded-up windows. He believes the best use would be as a coffee shop or restaurant.
The building is in a hub that includes a mix of retail and dining establishments, including a food cart pod on Duane Street, two breweries, a cidery, a distillery and Street 14 Cafe. The owners of the neighboring J.C. Penney building on Commercial Street plan to open a taproom and food court in the former store.
Thiel’s was one of the few stores in town to offer an array of instruments and musical supplies like reeds and strings, noted Jennifer Crockett, executive director for the Liberty Theatre.
In the past, performers at the Liberty borrowed instruments from the store, Crockett said.
“Like a lot of retailers, the rise of Amazon and online retailers makes those supplies easier to find, with more options, and at a lower cost,” Crockett said. “I imagine that it became hard for Thiel’s to keep up.”
“As a musician, I’m saddened to lose another music shop,” she said.
The closure of Thiel’s — for now — made her also think of another loss to local musicians and music students: the recent closure of Spencer’s Instrument Repair shop on Marine Drive.