Perhaps the best way to look into a man’s soul is through the eyes of his wife. In a recent interview, Rita Goldman, wife of the founder of Fields Pianos, said this with regard to her husband as he decided to get into the business in the 1950s:”[Harry] took to it like a duck to water – he really loved the piano business.”
Upon first meeting Harry’s three sons, Gary, Irwin, and Jerry (oldest to youngest), one might get the impression that they simply inherited the magnificent piano showroom in Santa Ana. Their rich inventory of southern California’s finest pianos accurately displays the passion and appreciation one would expect from an exclusive Steinway and Sons dealer, but what it fails to convey are the values of apprenticeship and integrity that Harry instilled in his sons, through them his legacy lives on. The history of Fields Pianos is not just about the excellence of a product and a shrewd businessman. Rather, it is characterized by great risk, hard work, and determination.
The Fields Pianos family business originated in the Windy City in 1947. Harry’s older brothers Dave and Max were in the furniture business at 76th and Alstead in Chicago, buying and selling both new and used furniture. During negotiations for an acquisition of all the furniture in a house on Lake Shore Drive, the seller added, “I also have a piano if you’d like to try and sell it.” After consideration, they accepted his offer.
Not long after that, a pastor from the south side came into the furniture store and purchased the piano for his church. Noticing that the piano sold quickly, the Goldman brothers decided to explore their options and thus, in 1947, Dave and Max Goldman entered the piano business. In Chicago at the time, Marshall Fields was the premiere clothier, and when Chicagoans were going shopping they would typically say, “We’re going to Fields,” abbreviating the store’s name. The Goldman brothers wanted to communicate to the marketplace that they were the place to buy fine pianos, so they took on the name “Fields Pianos”.
In 1953, Harry’s brothers sent him out West to run a wholesale operation selling grand pianos in 11 states on the other side of the Mississippi. It was sales the hard way with a lot of driving, but it would pay off. While looking for a home in Garden Grove, Harry and Rita fell in love with one and made an offer the same day they toured it.
Harry took to it like a duck to water – he really loved the piano business.
Uncertain about the location, Harry called back to his brothers in Chicago, forcing the issue with the question, “So are we going to be in southern California or not?” Dave and Max agreed: Harry began selling new, used, and rebuilt Steinways, Wurlitzers and Kohler and Campbell grand pianos throughout the region. Finally, by 1958 he had become well-known enough to graduate to selling wholesale “off the floor,” and in 1959 brothers Dave and Max made him a full partner.
The first location of Fields Pianos was on the corner of Beverly and Vermont in Los Angeles. 1962 was a landmark year: Harry bought out his brothers and decided to become a retail merchant because wholesale was getting harder due to the influx of new brands of inexpensive Asian pianos. He adjusted to the market changes by placing extreme emphasis on service and providing the very highest quality instruments in a variety of price ranges.
The second generation of Goldmans first became active in the business when the oldest of the three brothers, then 18-year-old Gary, began to learn about the inner workings of the piano from a master technician from Argentina. Gary was in dental school at Fullerton when he “felt the pull” of the family business and decided to follow in his father’s footsteps instead of pursuing dentistry. Harry would joke with Gary as he learned to rebuild pianos that he was “pulling old pins instead of teeth.”
In 1971, Harry’s second-born son Irwin grew interested in the business and began the apprenticeship process. One day, Irwin was caught writing the words “H. Fields and Son,” on the back door of the building, daydreaming of eventually being the sole heir to the operation. He, like his father, took to the piano business immediately.
In 1974, Jerry, the youngest son who wanted to be a teacher, tried his hand at the piano store. He figured that since they liked it so well he should try it before pursuing a profession in education and discovered the same passion for the music business as his brothers had found. He became the final component of the future business ownership structure.
With time, it became apparent to Harry and Rita that the three boys were going to make a career in the piano business, so he trained them in all facets of the operation.
He adjusted to the market changes by placing extreme emphasis on service and providing the very highest quality instruments in a variety of price ranges.
Harry’s recollection of father-and-son businesses he had sold to in the West (during his days of wholesale) made him leery of holding on too long,‚Äù having seen the friction and frustration in those sons as they tried to take ownership from fathers who were hesitant to relinquish control. So, in 1979, despite the advice of many, he stepped aside and sold one-third ownership to each of his three sons, it proved to be a wise decision.
Today, Fields Pianos passionately maintains its commitment to honesty, integrity, and service. For nearly two decades, Fields has proudly carried the banner “Home of Steinway.” The Fields Pianos showroom, located at 810 E. Dyer Rd in Santa Ana, California, displays the family of Steinway-designed pianos, which includes the prestigious handmade Steinway and Sons piano, the choice of 98% of the world’s concert pianists.
With the third generation of Goldmans now entering the business, Fields Pianos will continue to be the family-owned and operated piano showroom southern California can depend on. Jerry’s son Matt is entering the business as its internal technical specialist. Just as he is the third-generation, it is not unusual these days for a third-generation family member to come in and purchase a piano from Fields.
Their passion for fine pianos coupled with the legacy of determination left by Harry & Rita Goldman ensures that Fields Pianos will continue to be the place for fine pianos, a perfect “Home of Steinway.”