Founded when suppliers delivered wares in wagons and folks routinely paid bills with sacks of flour or heads of cattle, few Utah businesses can boast 100 years or more of survival. Those tenacious enough to have remained in the hands of family are not just endangered species, they’re practically extinct. We asked a handful of local, family-owned businesses to share their secret sauce for surviving over a century of depressions, pandemics, wars, construction, big box stores and—lest we forget—online shopping. You’ll likely recognize the names. Now you’ll appreciate what it’s taken to stand the test of time.
Founded in 1862 and located in Murray, Daynes Music is Utah’s exclusive Steinway piano dealership.
Skip Daynes’ hands are a map of scars. Some are from his early days working as a ranch hand for his uncle in Summit County, but far more tell the story of nearly 60 years wrangling pianos through windows, up staircases and, lately, to bizarre and exotic destinations, thanks to the collision of music and social media.
“I’ve propped up a Steinway with two-by-fours on the Salt Flats and sent another floating on a pontoon in a geothermal pool,” he says. But it was hauling a piano up a stubborn flight of narrow, winding stairs that made the fourth-generation owner of Daynes Music nearly call it quits.
“I told my assistant, ‘That’s it, I’m selling this damn store,’” recalls Skip. Perhaps visions of life in the saddle like the old days, shoeing horses, competing in rodeos, herding 200 head of cattle and rounding up 4,000 sheep for lambing each spring sounded easier than pianos.
What happened next, the 83-year-old says with reverence, is a moment he’ll never forget: the thundering voice of his great-great-grandfather, founder John Daynes, in his ears like the voice of God.
“DOOON’T SELL THE STOOORRE,” Skip animates in imitation, his chin to his chest, dropping to a shaking baritone. It was a voice from beyond the grave that saved the store—started by his great-grandfather, who had pulled a pipe organ in a covered wagon and set up a music and jewelry business in a log cabin 160 years ago. And so, Skip went back to work running the oldest store in the state—opened before Utah actually was a state. Skip admits it wasn’t the first time he’d envisioned forfeiting the store for the saddle—but it would be his last. After all, he hadn’t possessed the long, fine-fingered hands of a pianist, but the rough-hewn hands of a rancher.
“But…my name is Daynes,“ says Skip. “That means something, there’s history there.
That history not only includes pianos in covered wagons, but his grandfather, Royal Daynes, who helped establish the Utah Symphony while carrying on the business through a World War and the Great Depression, and his father, Gerald Daynes, leading the company through another World War and helping Ballet West get its start.
And while Skip has made some savvy decisions to ensure the store’s continued survival—like trading in a general approach and selling everything from guitars to stereo equipment to specializing in Steinway pianos, relocating the store to Midvale (where parking abounds), and championing new technology (yes, even in the piano business there’s new tech)—he says the secret to staying strong for so long is: “You love the community and they love you back.”
Fostering and entrenching himself in Utah’s arts scene has meant loaning everything from pianos to rehearsal space, providing Steinways to every college in the state, creating competitions with generous prizes and pressuring Capitol Hill for music in public education.
“I’m a lifelong advocate for music in schools,” he says, noting some recent wins with the legislature for restoring music at the elementary level. “When computer keyboards replaced piano keyboards in the curriculum, we lost something important.”
In return, Utahns hold the record for owning more pianos per capita than any other state, he says. As to the future of the store, Skip’s crossing his fingers that his grandson will take the reins.
“I’m counting on Great Grandpa John to intervene,” Skip says with a laugh. But that laugh cuts out as quick as a flame and his face grows serious. This cowboy isn’t fooling around. Meanwhile, the pump organ old John Daynes hauled in his wagon across the plains, complete with its little carpeted pedals and lopsided keys, sits noiselessly in the corner of Skip’s office, for now.
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