Swan song plays for 70-year-old Tonawanda music store

Seventy years ago, professional accordionist and teacher Richard Nowocien and his wife Florence opened a shop in Black Rock.

On December 30th, daughter Patti Bordonaro closed the doors of what is now the Paramount Music Center in the town of Tonawanda.

“I’m not retiring. I’m going to do something else,” said Bordonaro, 65, who has worked for Paramount since he was a teenager.

Sisters Sharon Stopa (left) and Patti Bordonaro inside the Paramount Music Center in the town of Tonawanda. Their father, his Richard Nowosien, started the business 70 years ago.

Libby March/Buffalo News

This is the latest example of a tumultuous locally owned music store in Buffalo Niagara.

Paramount has closed in recent years, following Alder Creek Music, Al Hemer Music Store, String Shop, Airport Music and others. Owners cited competition from online stores and big box stores, the Covid-19 pandemic, and declining membership in schools and local bands as factors.

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However, some music stores in the region continue to buck the trend and are even growing.

For example, Matt’s Music in North Tonawanda doubled its space during an expansion nearly three years ago, driven by demand for lessons. The store will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2023.

“We have plans to exist for the next 60 years,” said Kathy Carr, who took over the business from her father, Matt Piowkowski, and will soon pass it on to her son, Zach Carr.

After serving in the Marine Corps, Florence Novosian encouraged her husband, who played and taught the accordion, to open a shop.

The family has come to include three daughters and lived above the shops on Amherst and Grant streets, Sharon Stopa, the eldest, said.

Richard Nowocien saw popular music shift to The Beatles and Elvis Presley and expanded the store’s line-up accordingly, selling not only records but drums, guitars, amps and other instruments, the sisters said. said.

Paramount Music Center (copy)

Sharon Stopa exhibits old photographs of her father, Richard Nowosien. He took accordion lessons, started his Paramount Music Center with Black His Rock, and opened his second store in the town of Tonawanda.

Libby March/Buffalo News

He opened a second store in the town of Tonawanda on Niagara Falls Boulevard in 1975, where he remained until 1985 when he purchased the current store building on Brighton Road. In 1990 Richard Nowocien closed his Black Rock shop.

Stopa worked for her father before she got married, left town, and began a career as a teacher. Her youngest daughter, Bordonaro, didn’t want to go to college, and when she was in her senior year, she dropped out of high school to work at her former store.

“He needed me,” said Bordonaro. “I was the last child. He had only girls.”

Bordonaro said Paramount was successful in the 1970s, 80s and 90s because so many adults played guitars and other instruments, especially in bands, during this time.

The store also offered instrument lessons, rented instruments to schools, and sold accessories and equipment to players of all ages.

Business struggled as fewer people continued to play instruments into adulthood, and stores struggled to compete with online sellers and retailers such as Guitar Center, Bordonaro said.

His father, who continued to give accordion lessons at home until he was 90, died in January 2022 at the age of 92.

“I didn’t want to shut down when he was alive, and I said to him, ‘I want to retire soon,'” Bordonaro said. “He agreed with me. He thought I should shut down.”

As the end drew near, Bordonaro seemed relieved. Stopa, by contrast, became emotional at the prospect of closure.

“I like it here. I like this shop,” Stopa said, catching her voice. “It was really part of our lives.”

Patti Bordonaro, left, and sister Sharon Stopa, owners of the Paramount Music Center in the town of Tonawanda, discuss the December 30 closing of the store opened by parents Richard and Florence Novosian in 1952 in Black Rock, Buffalo. I talk. neighborhood.

Stephen T. Watson

Steve Wingrove has made a similar decision to close his Alder Creek Music on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Wheatfield in the summer of 2021.

He started repairing brass and woodwind instruments when he was 13, and as an adult he opened a shop in his basement. His wife Kathy urged him to move to the storefront after a new customer took a wrong turn at home and tracked mud into the couple’s kitchen.

“My wife was still wearing the robe and he was just scaring her out of the sun,” Wingrove recalled with a laugh.

From his shop, which opened in 1995, Winggrove sold used instruments and instrument accessories, and performed repair work for many professional musicians.

“I did very well. I mean, I couldn’t keep up with it,” he said. “I worked too many hours.”

In recent years, competition from online sellers on eBay and other sites has reduced sales of his accessories, alongside music lessons, which were an important part of his business.

Wingrove also lost out on sales of used instruments to online sellers who lowered prices.

“That’s the ultimate reason for the closure,” Wingrove said, also referring to the arthritis that developed in his thumb.

Closing the door allowed Wingrove to handle the vast inventory of instruments he had amassed. Wingrove said he repairs brass and woodwind instruments and sells them online or more often donates them to local school music programs.

Jack West and his wife Mary met thanks to the Jackson Music Center, a Grand Island guitar store that opened in 1985 after Jack sold a few guitars.

West was looking for a piano teacher, and Mary responded to the notice. “And our first date was Stevie Ray Vaughan at UB,” said Jack West.

West said this was the golden age of guitar playing, driven by rock stars such as Jimmy Page, Angus Young, and Eddie Van Halen.

“You didn’t ask anyone if they played guitar. You asked what kind of guitar they played,” said Mary West.

Jack West says some of the store’s most loyal customers have purchased 25, 50 or more guitars over the years.

“They are more than just instruments,” added Mary West. “They are accessories.”

According to Westerners, the guitar is no longer central to music production, and teens and young adults are far more likely to play video games than play musical instruments.

The Wests say they’re finding a niche in selling used guitars, many of which are coveted because of their connections with high-profile musicians, and about half of the sales are done online, says Jack West. said Mr.

They shrunk a store that once occupied 10,000 square feet to a 1,200 square foot store. In the store’s heyday he had 15 employees, now only western employees.

“What I’m running now is a cozy little boutique style model,” said Jack West.

Matt's Music (Copy)

Bethany Kasprzak repairing a trumpet. Michael Palizzi plays mandolin at Matt Music’s Corner in North Tonawanda. Kasprzak, who helps manage the shop and teaches voice, piano, guitar and drums, where he has been working for 20 years.

Libby March/Buffalo News

With other stores shrinking or closing, North Tonawanda facility Matt’s Music recently completed an L-shaped extension around its Oliver Street store, doubling the available space.

“We were nervous,” said Zach Carr, a third-generation member of the family who has run the store since grandparents Matt and the late Jan Piolkovsky opened it in 1963. rice field. A very loyal customer base. ”

They cut the ribbon on March 13, 2020 to mark the opening of the addition, a full-service music performance space. A week later, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and Matt’s Music scrambled to adapt.

“We put the entire lesson program online,” said Cathy Carr, crediting her son, a famous singer and vocal instructor.

Matt's Music (Copy)

A few local music stores have closed, but Matt’s Music in North Tonawanda expanded three years ago.

Libby March/Buffalo News

This was the latest evolution of Matt’s Music, which has been selling, renting and repairing instruments and providing vocal and music training for decades.

Matt Piorkowski, an accomplished accordionist now 87, has mild dementia but still plays, Kathy Carr said.

Kathy and Zach Carr said that Matt’s Music makes connecting with the community a top priority through services such as music therapy programs.

Cathy Carr and the store will be 60 in 2023.

“Here’s my grandson. He’s already locked into the fourth generation,” Kathy Carr said. “He’s only a year and a half old.”

Sharon Stopa performs “Accordion Boogie” at the Paramount Music Center in the town of Tonawanda in the presence of Jimi Hendrix. Stopa’s late father, Richard Nowocien, a noted accordionist who taught Stopa how to play, founded the shop 70 years ago. “Accordion Boogie” was her father’s favorite song and is still her song.

Stephen T. Watson

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