Frederic “Ric” Sterry Smith and his wife Anna opened Sterry Piano Company in 1983. Their original storefront was located on Malaga Street and though years have passed and the shop has relocated, the beauty of their craftsmanship and the enchantment of their music continues to captivate St. Augustine.
Their ornate and often heirloom quality pianos can be spotted in a variety of locations around town, as they have provided Steinway Grands for the St. Augustine Orchestra, the First Coast Opera, The Menendez, and the White Room.
“Our family and business have deep roots in both Florida and St. Augustine dating to the late 1800’s,” said Ric, whose great grandfather, hotelier Fred Sterry, was a vital business associate of Henry Flagler.
Ric has always held a deep fascination of his great grandfather and specifically his ties to this area. By serving as family historian, he has maintained invaluable artifacts from the past, including hundreds of articles, photographs and letters that create a detailed account of Sterry’s monumental impact on St. Augustine.
But though the historical impact of the Sterry on the Ancient City is great, the current generation has created its own legacy through not only their impeccable restoration talents but the gift of music that they pass on to their students.
“It could be said Flagler and Sterry brought tourism to Florida. Flagler needed Sterry’s abilities and contacts to fill his passenger cars and hotels. It was a perfect fit to develop real estate from Florida’s first coast to the gold coast, ultimately to Key West,” said Ric.
In addition to his ties to Flagler, Sterry held much star power in his own right, practically captivating the press. He surrounded himself with other powerful people and managed 10,000 employees at 12 hotels spanning from The Plaza in New York City to the National in Havana.
For the past 35 years, Sterry Piano has built on that legacy by enriching the lives of thousands with the gift of music.
After opening here in 1983, the company expanded to Atlanta, restoring Steinway Grands for Cooper Music and Steinway of Atlanta, all while maintaining the needs of their customers in St. Augustine.
“We’re the real deal,” said Anna. “Our customers recognize the quality of the instruments, the teachers, the longevity and the flexibility.”
In addition to her role as co-owner, Anna serves as the lead instructor, offering a variety of personalized music lessons at the Sterry teaching studio. The Smiths’ dedication to spreading the love of music, however, surpasses mere one-on-one instruction.
“We believe in giving back to the community,” said Ric. “Enriching hearts young and old with the gift of music.”
They give back in a variety of ways, including supporting events such as the St. Augustine’s Festival of Music, which has been highlighting local performers since 1985. They created the St. Augustine Youth Orchestra in 2014 and founded Play It Forward in 2012, an organization that provides musical instruments to students of Title I schools who could not otherwise afford to play.
“Anna and I have a real love for music and want to share that gift to people however we can as we continue to give back to the community,” said Ric. “Hopefully we have enriched many lives.”