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Sam Ash, the family-owned chain of music stores that supplied countless beginners and working musicians with guitars, drums and other instruments, is closing all of it locations after 100 years in business, it announced this week.

Derek Ash, whose great-grandparents, Sam and Rose Ash, opened the first Sam Ash store in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn in 1924, said the company’s 42 locations could not compete in the era of online shopping.

In March, Sam Ash announced it was closing 18 locations, with the hope of buying the company time to survive, Mr. Ash said. But he said that closing all the stores ended up being a “necessity.”

“A lot of this has been the move to online shopping,” Mr. Ash, the company’s chief marketing officer, said in an interview. “There are so many choices, and to maintain a store with that much selection is very difficult.”

Sam Ash has stores in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Ohio, Mr. Ash said. Some will close by the end of the month, he said. All will close by the end of July.

The news, which the company announced on Thursday, saddened many musicians who recalled buying instruments and equipment at Sam Ash or just stopping in to try out guitars, amps or keyboards — a tactile, communal experience that can’t be replicated online.

Michael Whalen, a two-time Emmy Award-winning composer and recording artist who lives in Queens, recalled going to the Sam Ash store on West 48th Street in Manhattan, in what was known as Music Row, to buy synthesizers, recording gear and studio speakers in the 1990s.

Back then, the area was packed with music stores like Manny’s Music, Rudy’s Music and Alex Musical Instruments, and Mr. Whalen might run into another musician he knew. But those stores have either closed or moved. The Sam Ash shop on West 48th Street was replaced more than a decade ago by another location on West 34th Street that is now also slated to close.

“Since the pandemic, you go around the city and you’re constantly remarking at all these things that have closed,” Mr. Whalen said. “This feels like that sort of denouement. The city is changing so much and a lot of people accuse Manhattan of being a place only for superrich people. I can see that because the places that made it feel like a community are going away.”

The rock guitarist Steve Stevens, who has played with Billy Idol, remembered walking into a Sam Ash store in the Forest Hills section of Queens in 1983 and buying a black Kramer Pacer guitar for about $700. He played that guitar, he said, while recording the hit album that Mr. Idol released later that year, “Rebel Yell.”

“I always felt like family at the W48th street store,” he wrote on Facebook on Friday. “The Ash family were good to me over the years.”

The company traces its roots to another era in New York. Sam Ash settled in the city after immigrating from Austria in 1907, when he was 10, and worked in the garment industry. He also played the violin at weddings, dances and bar mitzvahs, and was determined to open his own music shop. He and Ms. Ash pawned her engagement ring for $400 to make a down payment on what was to become the first Sam Ash store, according to the company’s website. She later got the ring back.

Over the decades, Sam Ash employed many musicians, giving them a steady paycheck while they hustled for gigs.

Luis Infantas, a manager at the West 34th Street store who is a drummer in a postpunk band called Black Rose Burning, said customers could always count on “real, musician-caliber advice and equipment.”

“That’s the one thing that made us different from the competition,” he said.

But sometimes, he said, customers would come to the store just to test out an instrument that they had researched online. Then they would go home and buy the instrument online.

Mr. Infantas, who has worked for Sam Ash for 29 years, said that practice, known as “showrooming,” underscored how hard it was for traditional stores to compete against online behemoths like Amazon.

Even so, working at Sam Ash was “the next best thing to being onstage,” Mr. Infantas said, “because you were around the equipment you love, around musicians, and you were listening to music while working.”

Customers never knew who might walk in the door.

Once, on a Tuesday evening, Mr. Infantas said, he sold monitors and keyboards to Stevie Wonder, who was buying them for a performance at the Obama White House. Another time, he said, James Gandolfini stopped in to buy drums for his son.

“Things like that you don’t get to experience,” he said, “unless you’re at an institution like Sam Ash.”



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