The Finest Strip-Center Recital Hall in Houston

Hidden upstairs in that new double-decker strip center on the south side of 59 between the Kirby CVS and the feeder-road Chick-Fil-A, nestled between a hair salon and a spa, is a brand-new recital hall, outfitted with a 7-foot-5 Hamburg Steinway Model C grand piano and room for up to 100 fans of fine classical music. Leave the curtains on the back wall open, and performers can appreciate a sweeping view of the freeway traffic as they play.

The hall is inside the brand-new Dowling Music, a gifts-and-sheet-music store run by concert pianist Richard Dowling, who recently returned to his hometown and bought the Houston branch of Pender’s Music (which Pender’s had bought from the local Wadler-Kaplan Music Shop in 2000).

The strip center and its neighbors were built on the former Kirby Dr. site of Westheimer Transfer & Storage, which former Rockets star Hakeem Olajuwon bought in 2002. Olajuwon demolished the building and flipped the land, parceling it out in pieces to suburban-style developers.

Dowling, who performs about 60 concerts a year around the world, can’t have expected much walk-in business from visitors patronizing other establishments in the strip center. Downstairs from his store is the Methodist Breast Imaging Center; an Israeli martial arts studio, a weight-loss clinic, a GolfTEC indoor golf clinic, and the Pasha Snoring & Sinus Center round out the second floor. But Dowling tells the West University Examiner‘s Steve Mark that traffic has doubled since he moved the store from its Portwest Dr. location:


“Every day we’re getting new people who never knew Houston had a sheet music store. Now they’re asking for pop and guitar music, too. We’re getting all the musical amateurs looking for the things the store always carried but (they) didn’t know where to get it.” . . .

“Classical music is somewhat of a bottom feeder. Classical music CDs represent only three percent of all CDs sold, but whether there’s a hurricane ravaging on the ocean surface or whether it’s a clear, blue day, down at the bottom where it’s dark and cold, life goes on every day. Everybody has said for 100 years that classical music is going to die. Well, guess what — it’s still here. Classical music is the fabric of everyday life.”

Photos of Center @ Kirby – W, 2615 Southwest Fwy.: Swamplot inbox

8 Comment

  • I bet that flashy sign help his business out.

  • It helps that there’s a piano store just up the feeder (Sherman Clay) that has studio space where third-party teachers can give lessons, sending their students to Dowling to purchase additional music. For that matter, there’s another piano store on the other side of the freeway (Forshey). It’s not such a crazy idea, especially being so close to West U, where there must certainly be a large number of children who take some sort of music lessons.

  • Yes, and Rice, UH, St. Thomas, and HSPVA, all with serious music programs. Portwest was way too far away. Speaking as a Rice musician, it was a real drag when Pender’s moved out of Isabella Court.

  • Yes, so long as there are elevators, classical music will endure. Just kidding, love “Pachabel’s Canon”. Also, the orchestral part of “November Rain” by
    Guns and Roses. Anyway, I hope they succeed.

    On a related note, does anyone else think this strip center has turned the Hwy 59 feeder into a dangerous zoo! People exit the strip center wanting to u-turn at the next intersection. They have a few hundred feet to cross 3-4 lanes of traffic generally moving at (or above) freeway speeds. I see near-misses there almost every day, especially from idiots leaving CVS and Chick-Fil-A. I believe some of the exits directly onto the feeder should be closed; it’s that dangerous.

  • Well that is quite an assortment of stores and I’m glad that the store is getting customers. I’m just having a hard time imagining what a Methodist Breast Imaging Center is. :P

  • Devans,

    the people that are trying to race across the feeder road from these places to the U-Turn I would consider inconsiderate and selfish or just stupid.

    Chik-fil-a can be exited in the back to Westpark and a left can be made at Kirby. Behold zoo avoidance!

    CVS customers should go through the parking lot of the strip center to get on the feeder road farther back or use the same exit from Chik-fil-a to get to Westpark.

    I never try to cross over three lanes of traffic from a driveway and I block others that try.

  • Resort and Spa Houston, just in case you are genuinely in the dark and not pulling our legs… a breast imaging center is where one goes to get a mammogram.

    The people who try to race to the U-turn from the CVS exit closest to the intersection are probably the same ones who try to make a left onto Kirby from the exit on the other side of the same lot.

  • I visited the store the first weekend it was open, and overheard the general manager talking about how much more foot traffic the store is getting. He stated the obvious, which I’m surprised no one has commented on yet–think of the hundreds of thousands of people who are stuck in traffic every day on the elevated portion of 59 across from the store. The store’s sign is eye-level to those commuters (whereas it’s actually harder to see the stores on ground level), and you gotta think at least some of them are going to be interested in the store’s wares. Compare that to a low-profile location on Portwest that probably gets 1/10000th the traffic of 59. This is a rare case where being on the second floor of a strip center actually helps a company in Houston.