Edgar Lund Fletcher was born August 16, 1880 in Charlestown, New Hampshire and moved to Boston in the late 1890's to pursue a future in music. He learned piano tuning in the Chickering & Sons Co. piano factory in Boston and came to Elmira, NY in 1905 as an employee of J. Greener & Son Musical Merchandise. In 1909 he established as an independent piano tuner and became a member of the National Association of Piano Tuners.
Edgar's sons, Malcolm and Harmon, opened Fletcher's Pianos & Organs in Hornell & Elmira, NY, respectively, in the 1930's. Ellin, his oldest daughter, married Robert M. Sides in 1931 and moved to Williamsport, PA where Bob, an active musician and accountant, was working at the time. Bob, having learned piano tuning and repair over the years from the family, began selling pianos from his home in 1937.
In 1945 Robert traded his house for a building on Washington Boulevard with 3 apartments and a meat market where he could expand his store.Hugh "Pete" Sides joined the business in 1955 and brought a vision and a plan to expand the business into a full-line, full service music store…"a one stop shop for everything musical", adding band, orchestra, combo and Hi-Fi Stereo departments. But it was his focus of "renting-to-own" musical instruments that truly innovated the business. This concept significantly reduced the financial barrier to purchase for most customers reducing an otherwise substantial purchase to a small, manageable monthly payment. As a piano tuner, our grandfather began building his customer base. Quickly, his service philosophy began growing Robert M. Sides Pianos and Organs, into a thriving local business out of the living room of his home. Growth continued with the eventual addition of band and orchestra instruments to the product offerings.
In 1986, Pete and his wife, Carol Doran Sides, realized their dream of the ultimate family music center... a 52,000 square foot modern facility designed as a professional retail space for our customers and employees. This new facility featured a 250-seat recital hall with an Allen digital/pipe organ, showrooms for pianos, home and church organs, band, orchestra and live performance instruments, as well as, private lesson rooms for music instruction and space for repair and restoration of all types of instruments including antique pianos.
In 1990 Robert M. Sides expanded by adding a store in Wilkes-Barre, PA, the hometown of Carol Sides. In 2001 a third store was added in State College, PA. In 2011 the Fletcher's Pianos store, started 80 years ago by Harmon Fletcher (Ellin Fletcher Sides' brother) became our fourth store location. After more than 75 years in business, Robert M. Sides is still a family owned and operated business with Pete, his wife Carol, his daughter Alysha, and his son Peter, all providing the same personal attention and quality products to their customers.
Today, we owe our current rankings in the Top 100 Music Store Chains (as ranked by Music Trades Magazine) and top 100 music stores (as ranked by NAMM) to the courage and vision of Bob and Pete Sides, and to our fantastic staff of over 100 employees, without whom none of this would be possible. We currently employ some of the most talented sales, educational and technical staff in the country with craftsmen capable of restoring life to pianos over 100 years old, repairing over 10,000 band and orchestra rental instruments annually, and teaching over 800 students per week.
Now in the third generation, Peter and Alysha look to fill the very large shoes of their parents and grandparents especially their grandmother Ellin, who passed away in April, 2009 at age 99. They are the 18th and 19th members of our family to be involved in this wonderful industry and consider themselves lucky to continue this heritage that brings music and joy into so many lives.