By Emily M. Dean, GSN Contributor

While many piano stores in the U.S. are struggling to find their customer base, business is booming at Gilbert’s family-owned My First Piano.

My First Piano, located in Gilbert Town Square, recently won Yamaha’s Southwest Dealer of the Year award for its excellent sales numbers and creative ways it employs to lure new people to the ivories.

The business is owned by Gilbert resident Josh Wallace, whose family has been in the piano industry for four generations.

“We were very surprised when we found out we won the Yamaha Southwest Piano Dealer of the Year. It’s a prestigious award from a premier company, and we were up against piano stores in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and California that are two and three times our size,” Wallace said.

Wallace credits his store’s innovative business model – one he says is unparalleled in the piano industry – for the success.

That model has the store letting families to “test drive” a piano before making a decision on whether to buy it.

“What makes us different is that we don’t pressure anyone into buying a piano up front,” Wallace said.

“You simply pick out the piano you want whether it’s new or used, digital or acoustic and we deliver it right to your home without any money down, any commitment to buy anything or any credit checks,” Wallace added. “You pay $30 to $99 per month and six months later, you can use that equity to buy anything in our inventory.”

The store’s numbers reflect the success of this rare business model, he said, with  2,200 sales and 3,500 leases in 10 years.

Wallace said he wants to help families who otherwise would not be able to afford a piano, citing the store’s payment options as well as its policy of letting potential customers  to learn how an individual piano functions with no commitment.

Both things, he said, create a lasting bond of trust with customers.

“Yamaha is a company that values new ideas, innovation, and dealerships who align with their goals of making more music makers and we check all of those boxes,” Wallace said.

“Despite being a small dealership in a small market like Gilbert, we won this award because our store is completely unique in the piano industry and we offer something that appeals to families and first-time buyers in the East Valley,” he added.

My First Piano is also trying to draw new interest in the instrument through the Piano Revival Project, a unique way to collaborate with local artists and intertwine two different forms of art.

Wallace hires artists and asks them to turn average-looking pianos into works of art. Some of the pianos are colorfully painted and while others are creatively carved. The project is responsible for the transformation of 400 pianos, all of which are unique pieces that you aren’t found anywhere else.

One piano, for example, was painted yellow and features a painting of dandelions flying away in the wind.

Wallace allows potential customers to request a particular design so that they end up with not only a piano, but a new art installation for your home as well.

Yamaha isn’t the only one to recognize the success and innovation of My First Piano.

At the East Valley School of Music is one of the Valley’s most established music schools, owner Mike Kaminski said he always sends his students to My First Piano.

“We have over 500 students at our school,” said Kaminski, “and we send them all to My First Piano because they are authentic, the quality of their instruments are great, and our families love the no pressure environment.”

Travis Mitchell, national sales director of the Keyboard Division of Yamaha Corporation of America, said that Wallace “truly exemplifies the modern Yamaha dealer.”

“He has always been open to new business ideas, and is incredibly supportive of all Yamaha initiatives,” said Mitchell. “He is committed to presenting our products with a well-trained staff and removing the barriers of families getting a piano.”