MAYFLOWER -- A Faulkner County town is now home to one of the world's 60 Steinway Piano Galleries and officially opened for business Friday afternoon.
Piano enthusiasts and community leaders gathered at 657 Highway 365 at 2 p.m. Friday to celebrate the newest Steinway & Sons gallery opening its doors following a ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Steinway making Mayflower part of its home is a big deal, Steinway CEO Ron Losby said.
"We are extremely persnickety about who becomes a Steinway Piano Gallery," he said. "We’ve had dealers who have been with us for over a century that we would not bestow the license to call themselves a Steinway Piano Gallery."
Those who prove they are honest, have astounding integrity and can make the pianos "always sound and look their best" can find themselves as a candidate to open up shop as a Steinway Piano Gallery, Losby said. However, there are a limited number of such galleries across the world.
Currently, there are 200 Steinway dealerships across the globe. Only 60 of those are also galleries.
Gallery owner Stephen Wirges is a piano expert.
Losby said Wirges has obtained a Steinway Gallery license quicker than anyone before him.
Wirges was asked to open a gallery a year and a half after he began working with Steinway. Typically, the company works with an individual for "a decade or two before we do that," Losby said.
"After 18 years of servicing pianos across the state, I'm grateful for this opportunity to open a complete, state-of-the-art retail store that offers the best of Steinway grands and uprights as well as Steinway-designed Boston and Essex pianos," Wirges said. "We welcome music teachers across the state to host their recitals at the gallery on a beautiful Steinway and to attend our many other events throughout the year."
Wirges' musical and technical career began 18 years ago.
He began his piano training in 2002 as an apprentice under Jim McGehee, who was owner and founder of Piano Kraft. After training alongside McGehee for a year, Wirges began sourcing some of his own work. In 2010, he became co-owner of Piano Kraft and was the head technician for Kawai and Yamaha pieces at the business.
Wirges opened his own store, Stephen's Piano Shop, LLC., in 2012. Through the years, he has become the exclusive piano technician for the University of Central Arkansas, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.
In 2016, Wirges trained in New York under Steinway's Kent Web.
The opportunity, alongside becoming Arkansas' exclusive Steinway dealer, was an absolute honor, he said.
"To be able to partner with this company and do this … it’s a dream come true. It’s unbelievable," Wirges said.
Mayflower Mayor Randy Holland said the city is both excited and honored to welcome Steinway to the community.
With the shop opening one day before the five-year anniversary of the tornado outbreak that destroyed much of Mayflower and Vilonia in 2014, the small-town mayor said it was clear better things were in the city's future.
"This is very special for us here in Mayflower," Holland said Friday afternoon.
Those who have never heard of Mayflower likely will travel to the city because of this new establishment, Holland said, adding he is excited to also say Infrared Studio Productions will soon set up shop in Mayflower too.
"This is a great day," Holland said shortly before the ceremonial ribbon was cut Friday. "The sun is now shining on the city of Mayflower and Steinway, thank you for choosing Mayflower with our small town atmosphere and big city access."
Steinway representatives said they believe Wirges has the right traits and characteristics to make this gallery successful.
"Stephen has an incredible reputation throughout Arkansas — among pianists, institutions, students, and music enthusiasts — for his dedication to fine pianos," Steinway & Sons Vice President of Sales and Marketing Todd Sanders said. "We are very pleased to welcome him into the Steinway family, and we are thrilled to have him at the helm of the exclusive Steinway retail location in Arkansas."
Wirges said he wanted to thank God for the opportunity he has received and dedicated the facility to God. The dedication was followed by a prayer just before Friday's crowd gathered in front of the store for the ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Steinway Piano Gallery Little Rock is visible to those driving past Mayflower along Interstate 40. The showroom is located at 657 Highway 365.
For more details on the exclusive Steinway hot spot in Arkansas, visit www.steinwaylr.com.