Denton Cottier & Daniels
Denton Cottier & Daniels – Industry Award
BMHOF Class of 2014
Nobody in the Buffalo music world has a longer history than Denton, Cottier& Daniels. The piano and keyboard store traces its story back 187 years – to less than 14 years after the British burned the city to the ground.
Along the way it has evolved from a full-line music instrument and sheet music store to a more specific focus on keyboard instruments: Pianos and organs, new and used. Denton, Cottier& Daniels also repairs and tune the instruments as well as doing moving and storage.
The shop has also become a performance venue and home to many concerts, recitals, art exhibits and community events.
But it all started with James D. Sheppard, an Englishman, bringing the first piano to Buffalo via mule-drawn boat on the Erie Canal in 1827. He set up in the old Eagle Tavern on Main Street, displaying his instruments. Sheppard later opened a store on the site of what is now the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library’s downtown branch.
In the 1850s, Hugh Cottier moved to Buffalo and became Sheppard’s partner. Robert Denton then joined the firm in 1863. After Sheppard’s death in 1867, the company changed its name to Cottier& Denton. Daniels was added to the name when William Daniels was made the third partner in 1887.
The company housed in a large building at Main & Swan streets as its celebrated its 75th birthday in 1902, then moved into another large at Court and Pearl streets in 1908. It remained there until the company moved to what had been a satellite store in the Northtown Plaza in Tonawanda in 1976. In 1999, Denton, Cottier& Daniels moved into a store it had built at 460 Dodge Road in the Getzville area of Amherst.
Jim Trimper Sr. became general manager of the company in 1973 and bought it in 1983. He now runs it as CEO and president, with Jim Trimper Jr. and Michelle Trimper serving as vice presidents. The Trimpers have become part of Western New York’s musical fabric, with a variety of interests.
“It’s been fun to watch the way that the scene has changed over the years,” said Jim Trimper Sr. “At one time most restaurants and bars offered live music every day of the week. There was a pull away from it for awhile in favor of recorded music. I think it took away from the experience. I’m glad there is a swing back to music clubs, bars and restaurants bringing in some very fine musicians.” Michelle Trimper said the area’s musical quality stands out.
“I love the amazingly diverse music scene here,” she said. “I love going to hear live music, whether it’s Ann Philippone at Nietzsche’s, a punk band at the Mohawk, the Buffalo Philharmonic, a groove band at Pausa, George Caldwell at the Sportsmen or country at a corner dive bar. There is world class live music here every night of the week.”
Her brother, who leads the shop’s repairs division, has ended up working with many of those artists.
“I get a chance to meet many of the local (as well as national and international) keyboard and piano players when I repair pianos,” he said. “Western New York players tend to be rather humble yet monster players when they sit down. It’s inspiring.
But he’s also gotten to repair equipment for world level musicians such as Rod Stewart, Umphries Magee, Jeff Beck, Our Lady Peace and the touring cast of Hairspray.
The shop has seen its share of celebrities over the years.
“It’s hard to pick one (biggest name); our business lends itself to musical celebrity encounters,” said Michelle. “A few: Paderewski, John Browning, Gregg Allman, Marcus Roberts, The Five Browns, Earth Wind & Fire … Their keyboard player bought a piano from us. … We also get to meet a wide range of musical celebrities during their performances. It’s fun!”
Denton, Cottier& Danielshistorical roots runrun deep in terms of the their selection too. The company has a tradition of selling high-quality instruments that includes being the oldest Steinway dealer in the world. The company started selling Steinways in Buffalo in 1860, just seven years after the American Steinway company was started in New York City.
During Buffalo’s gilded age, Denton, Cottier& Daniels was a downtown fixture. A newspaper articles from 1902 – celebrating the company’s 75th anniversary – described it this way (translated from German from The Buffalo FreiePresse):
“Since its humble beginnings seventy-five years ago the company has expanded to the point where it now occupies the entire five-story building at No. 269-271 Main Street, which extends out to No. 9 East Swan Street. Every floor of the building generates a great deal of business activity; there’s always something new to find, all things novel and fine, at at any time of the day you’ll find satisfied, happy customers.
“The first floor has an immense stock of music for string instruments, featuring all the standard titles plus classical and popular publications. In the Department of Music Instruments you’ll find mandolins, violins, guitars, banjoes, music boxes, tin instruments and just about everything else to do with music.
“The second floor has a roomy recital hall and the third, fourth and fifth floors are divided up into various display areas where over twenty pianos of various manufacture can be found. These rooms are among the finest and largest in the country. If someone’s looking for a piano but can’t find one to suit him here, then one can conclude with certainty that the individual really doesn’t want to buy a piano.
“The Repair Department is in the section of the bilding located on Swan Street and it is a very important branch of the company. A great number of skilled men are busy tuning, repairing, adjusting and polishing – incidentally this is where pianos are taken apart and rebuilt as good as new.
“This music house’s business isn’t limited to the Buffalo area. The territory in which this firm does business includes all of Western New York and Pennsylvania and extends through and past Ohio.”
The articles says the company credited its success to building on the idea that one satisfied customer leads to another. That’s an approach that Jim Trimper Sr. said he embraces today: “Every time a piano or organ is sold, a loyal friend is made, and many loyal friends build a successful business.”
That success has been reflected in industry recognition. In 2013, Denton, Cottier& Daniels was recognized as one of the top 100 music instrument and product dealers in the world by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).
Denton, Cottier& Daniels’ list of clients includes the Buffalo Philharmonic, Chautauqua Institute, the Eastman School of Music, the State University of New York at Fredonia, Shea’s Buffalo, the Buffalo Sabres and the University at Buffalo.
Denton, Cottier& Daniels has also been an active community participant. Their list of activities is too long to list in detail, but some of the highlights include:
• Conducting a fundraiser concert for the Buffalo Philharmonic featuring Krista Seddon performing Marian McPartland transcriptions.
• Hosting two piano concerts benefitting the Amherst Symphony Orchestra and the Food Bank of Western New York.
• Hosting six concerts benefitting the Denton, Cottier& Daniels Buffalo Music Hall of Fame Scholarship Fund.
• Hosting the WNED Young Performers Series.
• Donating to the Business Clothing collection for the Everywoman Opportunity Center.
• Hosting a concert to benefit Nurses House.
• Hosting Junior Festival Piano Competition for almost 1,000 people, composer workshops, master classes, Bravo Music Camp, Glee Music Camp, Amherst School of Music recitals, the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition.
The community involvement is a big thing with the Trimpers.
“Some of my favorite moments come from our special events when we are able to hear great musicians, raise some money for an arts or charitable cause, and meet lots of new music lovers,” said Jim Sr.
Michelle said she often meets students who performing in a teachers recital at the store.
“Years later they are coming back through as an internationally successful talent,” she said. “And they appreciate our help when they were getting started.”
Her brother said, “Fixing a particularly troubling problem in the repair show is awfully rewarding. (But) seeing my kids play here in competitions and piano recitals is pretty great too.”
It’s also a pretty good way to start another 187 years as well.
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