All 12,000 square feet were there for perusing when famous piano seller PianoForte held a party in its new home at 1335 S. Michigan in the South Loop week before last. Trouble was, it wasn't well-lit and there was no heat. And you were at great peril if you drank all the Prosecco you wanted--and there was a lot--because there was no plumbing. Do the (restroom) math.
It sure was fun, though, exploring all three floors of the vintage building--gutted and with a new facade--which used to house auto parts, complete with a conveyor belt which is still there. We had to carry flashlights onto floors 2 and 3, in fact, walking on the very old but sturdy wooden floors. And under the very high but sturdy ceilings. They will be, respectively, a venue and practice rooms--and a top-floor living space. The first floor will house the piano showroom--an array of the best of the best from Fazioli and Kawai, among many other makers.
The PianoForte Foundation will also operate out of the building--a not for profit arm that brings piano concerts and education and all the trimmings to the public, trying to make it hungry for the warmth of the ivories and the tickle of the ebonies.
This is a big thing for the South Loop, although it doesn't know it yet. PianoForte has been ensconced at the historic Fine Arts Building at Congress and Michigan for the better part of 10 years. It has a distinct Michigan Avenue presence. It also houses a venue upstairs on the eighth floor, amidst the original beauty of one of the most story-laden and lovely buildings in Chicago. But PianoForte decided recently that it had enough of being a tenant--and Thomas Zoells, who heads the operation, decided the business should buy and move on. In a few months, barring building department delays and screw-ups, the Fine Arts will be history for PianoForte, and the new building in the heart of the South Loop will be the place to be--after a thorough buildout.
Zoells, originally from Switzerland and a former banker who lives in Hinsdale, held the unveiling of the new space on his 51st birthday. His guests wore coats, stumbled in the dark--and held it until they could get to other nearby watering holes and restaurants later in the evening to use the restroom. There was a big birthday cake, but Zoells had admonished his invitees: "No presents. This new building is a big enough present."