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.”
- Reviving an institution [West University Examiner]
- Services [Dowling Music]
- Old industrial property snags another retailer [Houston Business Journal]
- Retail chain hopes to score big with land buy from Olajuwon [Houston Business Journal]
Photos of Center @ Kirby – W, 2615 Southwest Fwy.: Swamplot inbox