Sherman Clay will end its 100-year history of selling pianos in the Sacramento region at the end of May, closing its Roseville store at 771 Pleasant Grove Blvd.
The closure is one of many changes coming in Northern California for Sherman Clay. The company is also selling its San Francisco and Walnut Creek stores to Steinway & Sons and is closing its Santa Clara store.
"We as a family are involved in a number of other businesses, and we didn't feel we were able to give justice to the amount of time and attention that the piano business requires for an owner," said Eric Schwartz, who heads up the San Bruno-based Sherman Clay Group's retail and finance divisions. "We're in the retail financing business for hearing aids and for pianos, and we're in the real estate business, and we do paper recycling and manufacturing in New England."
Schwartz did not disclose the sales price. He said the three Roseville employees will lose their jobs if Steinway does not hire them. The Schwartz family acquired Sherman Clay in 1960, Schwartz said, and he and his brother Michael Schwartz will keep the Seattle and Houston stores.
The retail piano business has fallen off in recent years, Schwartz said.
"The dealers who are most successful are those who ... have short leases or no leases and are able to go into smaller stores than they might have had five, 10 or 20 years ago," he said. "If you're going to have a first-class location, you can't necessarily afford to have 10,000 or 15,000 square feet, and our store in Roseville is close to 10,000 square feet."
Hermann's got energy
When Martin Hermann sold off his semiconductor tools company to Intel, he left his native Germany and joined the company in Folsom as part of its senior management team.
It wasn't long before the serial entrepreneur got another itch, however.
These days, Hermann leads 8minutenergy Renewables, a Folsom-based solar energy company that so far has inked contracts with utilities such as Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to deliver 325 megawatts of renewable power, enough to supply 145,000 households.
"The strategy that we're pursuing is to aggressively drive down the cost of solar energy and by that, identify and develop new market opportunities," Hermann said. "To give you an example, back in 2009, when we started our first project, the price of solar energy was somewhere north of $180 per megawatt-hour. That would translate to $1.80 per kilowatt-hour. ... Today, the price of solar energy for the ground-mounted installations that we're pursuing is south of 7 cents per kilowatt-hour."
8minutenergy has not yet produced any power, Hermann said, because it takes three or four years to bring an installation online. The startup doesn't necessarily have to complete a project to realize revenue, though. A partnership with AES Solar yielded $636 million in financing for 8minutenergy's Mount Signal Solar farm in Imperial County. It's scheduled to begin operating by early 2014.
Hermann and his partners have self-financed their firm because they want to be able to make decisions quickly. 8minutenergy's goal is to develop 2,000 megawatts of renewable solar power in California.
Changes at East Sac Merc
Susan Tiesing closed her Tres Chic boutique Sunday at the East Sac Mercantile Exchange, 3257 Folsom Blvd., and is now selling merchandise online at sacramentoprom.com.
Tiesing said her customers complained that they felt as though they had to walk through a rummage sale to get to her upscale boutique at the back of the exchange.
About half the businesses that joined the Mercantile Exchange when it opened in November have remained, said owner Shelly Gantenbein, but she expected tenants to turn over.
"We've had some people leave," Gantenbein said. "We had one store (Colibri Blue) move out in February, and they took their own building on H Street, so it's a new business opening up out of it into a brick and mortar, which was the business model. ... It's a new business. It's a new opportunity. Not everybody's expectations are going to be reached."
The exchange also has allowed some people to figure out whether brick and mortar was right for them, Gantenbein said. "JB Harvest wanted to move into a brick-and-mortar store when they started," she said, "and he didn't like coming in there and sitting there all day long in a retail environment."
Call The Bee's Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193.