OAKLAND -- When word went out that Best Music Co. on Broadway planned to have a going-out-of-business sale beginning Saturday morning, reaction from customers was immediate: sorrow and disappointment.
Not even the lure of discounts on coveted trumpets, guitars, flutes, clarinets, drums and accordions -- not to mention fluegelhorns, bass clarinets and trombones -- could make up for the loss of the 80-year-old family-owned store.
As one man wrote on Facebook, "Normally, I love a good sale, but I'm so sad to hear this."
Best will be at 1716 Broadway for at least another six months to give customers time to return rental instruments. The sales will continue as the owner, Glenn Roberts, searches for a music store to carry on the business or someone to buy the building.
But he simply wants to retire.
"I'll be 76 in May, and I've been here over 50 years now, and I think it's just time," he said Thursday, surrounded by drumsticks, neck straps, amps, sheet music, kazoos and whistles.
Best is a store where a 200 year-old Italian violin worth $10,000 mingles with a Fender Squier Telecaster and an electric Concert ukulele. A store frequented over the years by Arturo Sandoval, Pete Escovedo, Josh Redman and members of Sound Garden, Green Day and the Tallest Man on Earth.
Sometimes someone brings an instrument with a sticker reading Art Best Music Co., the original name of the store founded in 1934 by Art Best as a repair shop on Jefferson Street.
Art Best began selling instruments and moved to 1529 Clay St. In 1946, he invested in an expansive showroom on 544 Clay St., with a performing space and a music bar where customers could listen to records in private booths.
He sold it in the late 1950s and opened a saxophone factory in Mexico near Nogales, Roberts said.
The business landed in the hands of another set of owners around 1958. But they went bankrupt, paving the way for new owners, three former workers -- Gil Freitas, Ben Scott, and Dewitt Montgomery.
Montgomery hired Roberts as an accordion teacher. It was 1963 and he was newly married (to a fellow accordion player) and had just returned to Oakland after being drafted by the Army.
He might have ended up teaching accordion at Fiore's Music Co., whose owner, Jack Fiore, taught Roberts how to play the instrument. (Now 95, Fiore still opens his East Oakland store five days a week.)
The Best offer, however, was better, and soon the owners recruited the accordion teacher to work the floor.
Seven years later, Montgomery retired and Roberts bought out his share with a $25,000 loan from Roberts' father and $3,000 the young man had saved playing in a band and teaching while stationed with the Army in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Eventually the other owners left the business, and Roberts moved to the current location on Broadway from 564 14th St., where Best Instrument Repair, originally part of the business, still operates.
"And here I still am," Roberts said.
If not for music, Roberts figured he probably would have worked for the family tire business, Roberts Tires, which stood on High Street and MacArthur Boulevard.
"The music business is more fun," he said.
These days he spends several days of the week at the store. Other days he often makes deliveries to the Bay Area schools that, together with music students, make up about half of Best's business.
He recently supplied 20 flutes to Oakland schools and delivered instruments to Walnut Creek on Friday.
Band instruments are Best's specialty, he said, adding that they just got paperwork on a King trombone that was the second made in 1904 by the Eastlake, Ohio, manufacturer -- the choice of Big Band Era trombone players.
"More people should come here," said Rolf Wietelmann, a Best enthusiast who was exchanging guitar strings Friday morning.
Crowds are not the problem, although the challenges of reinvigorating an 80-year-old music store today may be part of the reason Roberts still hasn't found someone to take over the business.
He encouraged his daughter and son -- a former reporter at the Tri-Valley Herald -- to pursue other careers, and his grandchildren are too young.
Ideally, another music store will open and Roberts can lease the building, which took 20 years to own outright, because the pain of closing wouldn't stop at Oakland.
Roberts has a roster of employees who will have to find new jobs. There are other music stores in the Bay Area but few the size of Best that pay a living wage. Closing would also leave a big hole for suppliers such as Yamaha. Best is Yamaha's biggest Northern California dealer, Roberts said.
There are perks Roberts said he will miss, especially the annual trip to the Marshall Islands to deliver instruments, which involves a stop in Hawaii.
But he wants to spend time with his family and making wine from the grapes he grows.
"With four young grandchildren we enjoy being with, there will be plenty for us to do."