Many of us have probably heard of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute or have heard recordings of Sir James Galway. Maybe you even played the flute in a middle school band. Yet the flute is an intricate, complex instrument that dates back over 40,000 years ago, with flute music becoming popular starting in the Renaissance. As a testament to the density of New York City and its role as a global hub for musical talent, there is a store in New York City that is dedicated purely to the flute.
Located in Chelsea at 307 7th Avenue Suite 401, the Flute Center of New York is the largest seller of new and used flutes in North America. The center, which has a world-renowned flute repair center, sells over 3,000 flutes a year from beginner flutes to platinum flutes.
“We created something that is unique to the world and is a perfect fit for New York City because New York City is full of little niche businesses that you can’t really find anywhere else,” said Phil Unger, the President and owner. “We’re perfectly situated in the heart of Manhattan to service all of the flutists from around the world who happen to be coming through New York.”
The Flute Center of New York began as a repair store that Unger opened in 1980 in Dallas, Texas a few years after completing a year at the best musical repair program in the country, Allied Repair School in Wisconsin. Unger relocated his store to New York in 1994 and it grew progressively for the next two decades. Unger then decided to hire more full-time staff, all of whom have Masters or PhD degrees in flute performance, and moved the store from its Lincoln Center location to downtown Manhattan.
Entrance to the Flute Center of New York
The center’s inventory ranges from the piccolo, the smallest member of the flute family, to the contrabass flute, the largest member that often stands taller than the performer. According to Director of Marketing and Brand Emily Andenmatten, the store mainly sells standard concert C flutes but also occasionally sells larger alto flutes for Broadway and contemporary music ensembles, and once in a while sells contrabass flutes to universities, hobbyists, or flute choirs. The center also sells an array of Baroque, Irish, and Native American flutes.
“Because we are the Flute Center of New York and the leader in the industry, we thought that we should have Baroque flutes and Native American flutes because those are the two errant flute types that you can’t really find anywhere,” Unger said. “And it rounds out the offering of what we have. Without those, we’re not quite complete.”
Selection of Native American flutes
In addition to selling flutes, the store also sells flute bags, flute accessories, and sheet music, which the store began selling in November 2018. CEO Julian Rose started the store’s sheet music department after noticing that all of the major sheet music manufacturers in New York closed. Rose compiled and catalogued everything from Baroque flute concerti to flute choir pieces to obscure and rarely played flute repertoire, comprising over 4,000 different titles.
The Flute Center of New York’s main room
“We’re doing a lot of initiatives to market new composers and pieces that aren’t played very often, so we’re all using our collective performance backgrounds to share our knowledge and passion of the literature through the products as well,” Rose said.
Sheet music selection
The store also boasts having Sir James Galway and Lady Jeanne Galway as frequent visitors and close friends of the store. Sir Galway and Unger first met in 1983 when Unger repaired Galway’s flute, and ever since then the Galways have done events at the flute center. Other famous flutists like Jasmine Choi, Juilliard School professor Carol Wincenc, and the New York Philharmonic flutists all make regular visits to the store.
Andenmatten noted how the store has also seen basketball player David Robinson, opera singer Andrea Bocelli, and many famous actors and actresses buy flutes for themselves and their children. Additionally, renowned flute players from countries like Uruguay, China, and Indonesia fly to the United States exclusively to buy a flute.
Selection of flutes
Unger stressed that for musicians and non-musicians alike, the flute center sponsors about two free masterclasses and concerts per month by famous musicians like clarinetist Eddie Daniels and flutist Robert Langevin that are live-streamed on their Facebook page. The store also produces a flute podcast called Flute Unscripted in which the flute center’s staff interview world-renowned flute players about their craft.
Sheet music and the repair shop
The flute center has also worked to increase its clientele diversity by trying to increase sales on student flutes for young musicians of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Rose noted that while the store prides itself on its very high-end flutes, the center also tries to market people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Especially in such a competitive industry, Andenmatten noted how the flute center aims to “be a space where people are coming to learn and to share ideas,” people from all around the world from all different backgrounds bonding over a shared love of music.
“It happens all the time that we’ll have someone from South Africa and on that exact day someone else that they know from South Africa will show up, or people who haven’t seen each other in 20 years,” Unger said. “It happens all the time and it’s really amazing.”