Hickey's Music Center History

Hickey's Music Center, founded in 1892, is located in Ithaca, New York amongst the Finger Lakes. We are a full line music service specializing in the print music of all publishers, band, orchestral & popular instruments, accessories for all instruments, high quality instrument repairs, music software and equipment, and most important, friendly service to you, our customer.

We have available to us a virtually unlimited resource of music, instruments and accessories, and keep in stock over 50,000 items for immediate shipment. We routinely stock music most other stores have to special order, and our full line of performance products services the needs of the educational and professional communities both locally and worldwide. We are a regional resource for musical instruments as well, with professional, intermediate and beginner level models from some of the world's top manufacturers. We have regular customers in all 50 states, and many countries around the globe. We would like to make you our next "regular" customer. Browse through our pages and see what our tradition is all about.

Our Location

We have one store, located at the corner of Dey and Adams Streets in the pleasant Fall Creek section of Ithaca, New York. Our building was originally constructed in 1875 to house the Ithaca Calendar Clock Company, whose clocks are still made and much sought after even to this day (see photo at right). The building burned to the ground on February 16th, 1876, and was immediately rebuilt, albeit without much of the third floor. It remained the home of the ICC until the early 20th century when Prohibition and declining clock sales forced the company into bankruptcy. In the intervening years it has been used as an industrial laundry, a feed store, a fancy bakery, a library and a plumbing shop. Today, it houses our store, offices and warehouse, along with several other small businesses. Get directions to Hickey's Music Center from Anywhere.

In 1875...

Company History

The Early Years
Hickey's Music Center started out as Hickey's Lyceum Music Store in 1892, named after its founder, Joseph Hickey. Joe was first employed as a clerk in a candy shop, but he soon caught the enteprenurial bug and went into the music business, opening a shop that specialized in guitars, mandolins and banjos. The original store was located on what is now The Commons in Ithaca, above Schooley's Jewelry Store. Within a year the store moved to the Lyceum Building on North Cayuga Street where it flourished, adding piano rolls and early phonographs, among other things, to its product line. When telephone service reached Ithaca, Hickey's was assigned the number 2-8262, later AR2-8262, which is still our home number, 272-8262. Later, the store moved two blocks away to the corner of East State Street and Green Street, (the current location of the Community School of Music and Arts) where it occupied the entire first floor. It was during this time that the store became firmly established. A large selection of print music for both educational and popular uses was added, as well as pianos and additional instruments. Hickey's even had its own line of band instruments in those days. Indeed, the music selection was so large and complete that in the 1930's, Hickey's actually served as the de-facto library for the Ithaca Conservatory of Music (later Ithaca College) during a critical time in the college's history. In 1949, after an unfortunate mishap when a piano wrecked a customer's car (it's a long story), the store discontinued piano sales. For this we are eternally grateful!

The Legendary Years
Shortly after the piano mishap, the store moved to its famous Tioga Street location, the current site of the county's mental health building. It was here that the store became known throughout the northeastern United States and beyond as *the* location for sheet music. Band, orchestra and choir directors would travel many miles to spend days browsing the "stacks" to select music for their current and future programs. And Saturdays were always a full house. Indeed, many directors were known to stay late after the store closed, literally locking the door on the way out, with the keys and kind permission of the proprietor or his partners, Fred Wilcox or Bob Hedges. Hickey's also became a large mailorder company at this time, shipping music throughout the United States and Canada. But, like many old American institutions, the 1970's brought decline. The selection of music thinned, and non-sheet music products were dropped from the line. By 1987, the store moved to the second floor of the Emporium Building (above Autumn Leaves Bookstore) at 115 The Commons, just across the street from its original location nearly 100 years before.

Changes of Ownership and Revival
In 1988 there was a change of ownership and the venerable old company began the long and difficult process of rebuilding. After two years of cleaning, sorting and much carpentry, a great deal had been accomplished, but much more needed to be done. Later that year our first computer system was installed, a wicked fast 286 running at a blazing 16MHz crunching a dBase accounting package with a whopping 640K of RAM and 40MB hard drive (ahh, the good ol days!). In 1990, the current ownership took over and within a year moved the store to its present location in the Ithaca Calendar Clock Factory, continuing the rebuilding process started two years earlier. Soon, accessory items were being stocked again and sold at a serious discount, along with long absent keyboards, guitars and percussion. A year or two later found the store with many major instrument lines, including Armstrong, Artley, Bach, Buffet, Cannonball, Conn, King, Selmer, Schroetter and Yamaha.

The Internet Age
In 1993, the Internet was opened to commercial traffic and the World Wide Web was established. A few months later (and 102 years after our founding) Hickey's became a "Dot Com" with the appearance of our first website, a large scale multi-page affair offering a fair percentage of the items in our then 20,000+ piece catalog. Indeed, that first website was one of the first internet catalogs of any type anywhere in the world. In the intervening years, more departments have been brought online, from Percussion and Pop Music to Orchestral Scores. Today, our website continues to grow, offering at current over 45,000 hand selected items, plus the nearly infinite resources of our vendors and partners. In 2001, responding to increased mail order traffic, the store expanded, moving into and remodeling an empty section of our building and opening a mailorder warehouse. Attached to the warehouse is "Dilbertville," our mailorder office complete with the requisite cubicle dividers (sans "Wally") where we handle all of your orders each day.

The Future
The ownership, management and staff here at Hickey's look forward to a bright future. We will of course continually enhance our showroom and selection, and increase the efficiency of our mailorder operation. And we will continue to learn from one another and our customers, train our staff and add new and exciting products. But the real reason we do all this is so that we can concentrate on our main (and most enjoyable) goal—helping our customers make and enjoy music by providing increasingly unique honest to goodness one-on-one service. It is to this end that we strive.