After 27 years entertaining shoppers at the Tacoma Mall Nordstrom store, Juan Perez, 64, was recently laid off. The store manager, according to a spokeswoman, wanted something more modern to fill the retail air.
So the live piano will be replaced by recorded music, she said.
Only a few hours passed before Perez began receiving offers elsewhere.
Would he care to play at El Gaucho? Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays?
Yes, he would. He began last week.
“It was wonderful. The first night, it was so busy,” Perez said. “There were people all around the piano. They were so nice to me. They filled the tip jar.”
“His evening was awesome,” said Joseph Romero, captain at the popular high-end restaurant and nightspot in downtown Tacoma.
“We had quite a few people. They were getting autographs,” he said.
“People were dressed up, like partygoers,” Perez said.
“One thing I really enjoyed, he’s seamless,” Romero said. “The transitions. We want to make sure the ambiance and energy tie together. He didn’t miss a beat.”
El Gaucho was not the only suitor. A Nevada impresario who manages bookings for the upscale Snoqualmie Casino called to ask whether Perez would care to come up and play.
Yes, he would.
Add several other bookings. Perez said that since leaving Nordstrom on Jan. 27, he has been asked to perform “some small, one-time gigs, on Valentine’s Day, and some private parties, and a woman who is 90 years old and wants me to play at her birthday party, and a wedding on Fox Island.
“I may also play the marimba at the yacht club. I don’t know yet.”
So begins the next verse in a career that began in the Philippines, graduated to Guam and finally came to Tacoma, where Perez and his wife have raised 10 children.
And the Nordstrom piano that pleased so many shoppers?
That Baldwin baby grand has been donated and delivered to the music program at Capital High School in Olympia.
“We just feel lucky to have it. It’s a piece of history,” Capital secretary Amy Dreesbach said Friday. “We’re so excited. We feel so lucky.”
She remembers hearing Perez play at Tacoma Mall. She thinks he should somehow be remembered for all the joy he provided.
“I wish the piano had a plaque with Mr. Perez’s name on it,” she said.C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535 c.r.roberts@ thenewstribune.com