Ninow’s Music Store has officially moved to downtown Riverhead.
The legendary shop, which opened on Railroad Avenue in 1957, moved last week to its new location on West Main Street, across from Chase Bank.
“We could not ask for a better location to be in,” owner Ralph Vail said Thursday. “We feel the cards fell into place for us to make the move at the right time.” Although the new shop is operational, Mr. Vail said the transition is not yet complete and displays are still being set up.
Mitchell Taylor, a stringed instrument repairman at Ninow’s, said he and Mr. Vail hope the store eventually becomes a hub for local musicians — a place to “jam out” and play both inside the store and outside.
“It’s always been about the music,” Mr. Taylor said.
Mr. Vail, 66, said it was financially necessary for the store, which sells and repairs musical instruments and offers children’s music lessons, to move to a more family-friendly location. The shop on Railroad Avenue, which was established by Otto Ninow, a German Holocaust survivor, sat next to a bar and a bodega.
“Parents were complaining more and more,” Mr. Vail said of that site. “Railroad Avenue has just gotten progressively worse. Back in the 1960s and ’70s, Riverhead was ‘the country.’ Now it’s grown too fast and too much.”
Sales declined so much that Mr. Vail said he even considered closing the store completely.
“Closing down the shop was an option, even in the last year or two,” he said. “This is a make-or-break move for us.”
The relocations was welcome news to longtime customers.
“In 1967 I rented a trombone from Ninow’s,” said Michael Smith of Riverhead. “The shop was the same then as it is now.”
That’s the year Mr. Vail and his mother, Edna Vail, now 97, took ownership of Ninow’s Music Store, after Otto Ninow retired. Ms. Vail, who plays piano, accordion and guitar, began giving music lessons at Ninow’s shortly after it first opened on Railroad Avenue in 1957. As a boy, Mr. Vail hung around the shop after school while his mother taught her students, often until 9 p.m., and began working there as a teenager.
“For me, it was an emotional decision,” Mr. Vail said of the move. “I told customers I spent more time in that building on Railroad Avenue than I did in my own house over the years. But while the heart may take it a little differently, the brain knows it’s the right time. We’re excited.”