“I’m tuning the pianos for grandkids of some of my first customers.
You do become part of their families, which is a privilege.”
by Jessie Ammons
photograph by Madeline Gray
Home is at the heart of 60-year-old Ruggero Piano, a Raleigh institution that sells and services pianos. Founder Robert Ruggero opened his piano tuning and repair business in 1958, working from his family’s Raleigh home. When his son, Richard Ruggero, took over the business in 1981, Richard moved it to his own family’s house nearby. “We were in my garage, and later my dining room, and later my family room – then we decided we had outgrown our house,” Richard Ruggero says. A handful of locations later, Ruggero Piano is now a familiar sight on Hargrove Road, where Ruggero and his team sell and service a wide array of pianos and host free performances.
Monthly “fourth Friday mix” shows in the store’s concert hall attract customers of every age. “The piano has a deep emotional impact on a person’s life,” says Richard Ruggero. “If somebody plays, then they’re going to want their instrument to sound a certain way. We know how to do that. We become a needed part of customers’ existence. We’re like family physicians.”
Ruggero’s team includes his wife, Deborah Ruggero, and one of their sons, Chris Ruggero, along with four other piano technicians and other long-term employees. Ruggero talks about them all as if they’re family – and he says they consider their customers part of the clan. “When we sell a piano, we like to say it’s not the end of the relationship, it’s actually just the beginning,” Ruggero says. “We’re going to take care of that piano.” They do that with home visits to service, tune, and repair any instrument sold from their store.
Over the years, Ruggero Piano’s retail business has picked up and expanded to include recognizable piano brands like Yamaha as well as specialty brands. The shop’s community reach has also expanded: Ruggero sells and rents top-quality instruments at a heavy discount to nonprofits and performing arts organizations in an effort to “make it more affordable to have good live music.”