STRINGS Magazine: A Neighborhood Stroll
String-Instrument Resources within Walking Distance of my London Home
…”John & Arthur Beare is at No. 30, a late-Georgian building like most of the others on the block. The front door—like the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street—is jet black. This lends it a particular gravitas, further enhanced by an equally distinguished metal name plate. Step inside, and if it’s a rehair, repair, or quick consultation you’re after, you’ll transact your business in the main reception area. (The repair work is done in busy workshops on the second and third floors of the building.)
But should you be in search of an instrument, continue up to the graceful second-floor showroom, with its red oriental carpets, fireplace, high windows, and wall of violins, violas, and cellos. It’s a room that speaks of tradition, and indeed J&A Beare, or Beare’s as it’s usually known, has been in business since 1892.
These days, Beare’s is run by Simon Morris and Steven Smith, who first met each other in the National Youth Symphony of Great Britain. Many years later, their violin-dealing business, Morris & Smith, merged with Beare’s and in 2012, they took the helm as joint managing directors. That year Beare’s also sold the “Vieuxtemps” Guarneri del Gesù for over $16 million, a record for a private sale.
Morris traces Beare’s history for me, describing how the shop had been on Broadwick Street in Soho for decades, but the steady transformation of Soho into a dining and nightlife destination curtailed walk-in traffic and upped the rent. In 2000, Beare’s relocated to the more spacious building on Queen Anne Street, taking with them a reputation for expertise in valuing and selling instruments at the top end of the market. As Morris notes, the job of valuing and certifying instruments is made easier by the fact that “Beare’s has records going back decades.”…