Born in Michigan: Grinnell’s Music Store, 1872-1981
One of the places where musicians back in the 60s and 70s bought their guitars was Grinnell's. Now it's long gone.
In 1872, Ira Grinnell founded the business in Ann Arbor....but not selling instruments: he sold sewing machines. His brothers Clayton and Herbert joined in the fun and the three opened a shop in Ypsilanti. In 1881 they moved the biz to Woodward Avenue in Detroit, just below Cadillac Square. They added organs, pianos, and spinets to their line of sewing machines and in 1908 they had to move again to a larger location.
Grinnell's opened a warehouse at 2003 Brooklyn Street to accommodate the pianos manufactured by their plant in Holly. By the 1950s, Grinnell's was known as having the world's largest piano factory as well as being the planet's largest distributor of pianos. Throughout the rest of the 50s and into the 70s, Grinnell's sold amplifiers, drums, furniture, guitars and other instruments, radios, records, sheet music, televisions, and turntables.
1955: Grinnell's sells out to WKC Inc.
1963: Grinnell's has 35 stores in Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and soon more in Canada
1963: Grinnells' moves to 1525 Woodward
1967: The Detroit Riots.
The riots heralded the beginning of the end of Grinnell's. Families began moving out of the city to the relative safety of the suburbs, taking a lot of business customers with them. Malls and huge shopping centers like Sears also cut into the business. When employees in the Holly plant went on strike, that added another blow.
1976: Grinnell's was sold to David S. Rose
1977: Chapter 11 bankruptcy is filed
1977: Just a handful of locations left open
1981: A judge orders Grinnell's to be liquidated and closed
1981: The 13 remaining Michigan Grinnell's all close on April 6
The warehouse folded, and is now known as 'Grinnell Place'.