Johnson Piano Exchange

For nearly a century, Johnson Piano Exchange has served the Hickory area, striving to keep music playing in schools, churches and homes. The company is, and always has been, family run, and has contributed to the lives of families across the city.

Johnson Piano Exchange is the primary source of pianos and organs in the Greater Hickory region.  Since 1922, it has sold high-quality pianos, adding organs in 1935, the date of their invention. Today, the business sells new pianos, both digital and acoustic, antique pianos, used pianos and organs. They also have an extensive repair and restoration service that is top-notch.  With 10,000 parts in the average Grand Piano, each working together to create beautiful tones, repairing pianos is an art. Customers even have the option of having their piano repaired in their houses. The business is also the only one in the region that rents pianos. Pianos can be rented for events, for a weekend, or monthly, with a purchase option.

The selection of pianos at Johnson Piano Exchange is staggering.  The majority of the new pianos are Kawai Pianos. Larry Fine, author of The Piano Book, touts Kawai pianos as the best “Value for the Money” when buying a new piano.

The Kawai grand piano transforms craftsmanship into artistry.  Here you will find the most advanced pianos of the modern age—instruments that combine the latest technology with the time-tested principles of old-world craftsmanship to provide a sublime musical experience. “-Kawai

There are new Grand Pianos, Upright Pianos, and Digital Pianos available.  These new digital pianos have a surprisingly realistic sound, with many added benefits. School music teachers are thrilled to be able to sing into the piano’s microphone, play the piano, and record this  music all at the same time. These pianos are capable of burning a CD of the music you play on the spot. This has far reaching implications for piano teachers, and it is quite exciting.  There are also very many other sounds that you can create using these pianos. They are truly diverse machines, and the technology is constantly advancing.

Johnson Piano Exchange also offers PianoDisc products. These are revolutionary new devices that allow you turn your traditional acoustic piano into a player piano. Your piano can be upfitted to play any number of songs from classical, show tunes and  modern hits. Cutting edge technology even allows you to operate your player piano from an iPad or Smartphone. Other technologies can be used to turn your piano into a recording piano.  World famous composer Danny Elfman is a fan:

When I purchased a wonderful  grand piano for my new studio, I knew that I wanted to outfit it with the best MIDI playback system I could find so the piano could be used for both arrangements and recording. The SilentDrive HD system quickly became the top choice and I’ve been very pleased with its performance.”-Danny Elfman

Johnson’s Piano Exchange also sells used pianos. These vary widely in price, but all are high quality. There are also antique pianos available, often lovingly restored by Allen Wilson, General Manager of the business.

The City Has Changed Around It
Johnson Piano Exchange opened in 1922. Its location hasn’t changed in the years since its opening, but the city has changed around it. When it opened, Highland Avenue was part of the old Highway 70, which was the main thoroughfare in town.  The road was a dirt road, but it was the most popular dirt road in the city. The business benefited from this high visibility. In the time since then, the roads in Hickory have undergone major changes, and now the business sits in a much less traveled spot. This hasn’t hurt the company, however, as they are a “destination”. As the most reputable piano dealership for many miles, people are looking for the business, and it is easy to find.

This picture highlights the employees and founders of Johnson Piano Exchange. Starting on the left, we see Jimmy Edge and Paul Hunt, both industrious workers at the business. In the center is Thad Johnson, store owner. His brother Frank is next to him, with store founder Albert Johnson on the end. After many successful years in Hickory, Albert helped each child open a piano store in any city that they chose. Thad, the youngest son, stayed in Hickory and took over leadership at the Hickory store. His brother Frank opened a store in Kinston, daughter Mary Nell started a store in St. Petersburg, Florida, and daughter Dorothy opened a store in Macon Georgia. One daughter chose not to carry on the family tradition, and she became the first lady of Hudson, NC. Thad worked hard to guarantee the continued success of his store, eventually turning it over to his son-in-law, Allen  Wilson.

In the early days, Johnson Piano Exchange was known to barter, often trading cows for pianos. They would then raise the cow, and auction it. While they no longer accept cows for payments, they do offer financing.

Hickory has always been known as a furniture town, and this has contributed to the success of the business. People travel from around the country, and often from international destinations, to purchase our furniture. Many are also in the market for a piano, and Johnson Piano Exchange has maintained an excellent relationship with the Furniture Market. Recently, a couple from Switzerland traveled here to furnish their new vacation home. They outfitted the entire home, floor to ceiling, in a weekend trip to Hickory, including a new, top-of-the-line piano.

In addition to individuals in the market for a piano, the business also works with schools and churches. Many of the schools in the area have purchased new digital pianos, and are able to teach much more effectively. Most of the churches in our area are outfitted with Johnson’s pianos, including First Baptist, St Luke, Holy Trinity, and First Methodist.

Johnson Piano Exchange has seen Hickory through its ups and downs. In a decade that saw over half of the piano stores in the country close, Johnson Piano Exchange is proud to still be an important part of our town. General Manager Allen Wilson says,  I believe the long term success of any business depends on the community as a whole.  After 91 years, we are still proud to maintain great relationships with the families, businesses, churches and schools within Hickory and our neighboring communities.  With their continued support, we hope Johnson Piano will continue to supply pianos for decades to come. We are extremely grateful to all those who continue to buy local and keep Hickory strong!”

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