He’s been selling pianos for more than 50 years, but he plays only one song: “Tenderly.” He plays it well, but don’t ask him for another song because that’s the only one he knows.
“I felt like it was important to be able to play at least one song well,” said Kellor, looking across the showroom that will soon close its doors. “It’s served me well over the years.”
“Tenderly” was among the songs he played in the 24th Division Army Jazz Band back in the 1940s — a group that excelled at songs like “In the Mood” and “King Porter Stomp.” Kellor played drums because, as he says, it was easier to pick up than the other instruments. When he got out of the Army, he married a woman in his church choir and moved to the Washington area to sell pianos.
“He loves pianos almost as much as he loves me,” said Mary Alice Kellor, his wife of 54 years. “I think what he likes about it the most is that it brings music into people’s homes.”
SINCE 1995, the Kellors used the old Alexandria Gazette building at 717 North St. Asaph St. as a headquarters for six other stores. All the other stores are closed, and now Kellor plans to close the last remaining store just as soon as all the pianos have been sold. He said that the old newspaper building was “built like a rock” with a giant press room that he used as a workroom; a second-story newsroom that he converted to a living space where the couple lived from 1995 to 2005; and a darkroom that the Kellors used as a laundry room.
“That building has a lot of history to it, and when I walk down street I just can’t seem to resist walking into it,” said Lewis Stearman, who was the general manager of the paper for many years. “I was very happy that they took over the building and kept it active and actually lived upstairs.”
At the height of his business, he operated more than seven stores in the Washington metropolitan region. But those have all closed, and each model at the St. Asaph store has a yellow “going-out-of-business” price tag attached to it. In retirement, the Kellors plan to spend time together.
“We have a home in Tappahannock, and I’d like to spend a little more time there,” she said.
“I can hardly wait,” he said, staring out the window toward St. Asaph Street.