Evan Dean -
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) -- On Monday, for the first time in more than three years, Nicole Smith laid eyes on her beloved piano -- a rare John Broadwood & Sons that has been in her family for generations.
"I am so relieved," Smith told Target 8. "I had no idea what to expect, what was going to happen, if I was ever going to see it again."
Smith reached out to Target 8 after her monthly check to Christian Brothers Piano, the Grand Rapids business she had paid for years to store the John Broadwood, was suddenly returned in the mail. She tried reaching the owner, Gregory Allan Grill, but the business phone line was disconnected. The website was also no longer working and the last listed address on Plainfield Avenue was empty.
Target 8 couldn't get in direct contact with Grill, either, but did find several pianos at a storefront on Division Avenue South and 44th Street. A tipster told Target 8 they may be connected to Grill. It turns out Smith's piano was among them.
After Smith and three other Christian Brothers' customers with similar complaints filed reports with the Grand Rapids Police Department, a detective familiar with Grill was able to reach his attorney, who reached Grill, who confirmed the pianos were at the Division storefront.
Another local business, West Michigan Piano, picked up Smith's John Broadwood for free. They also offered to store it at their facility for free for three months.
West Michigan Piano told Target 8 that Grill's customers have been calling them for years.
"They're asking a lot of the same questions, which is, 'I can't seem to reach this guy? What do you know?' And we're always like, 'Well, it's not going to go well,'" Jeff Hall of West Michigan Piano told Target 8.
"He's a crook. I wouldn't give him any business," Hall said of Grill.
Grill still has Molly Sherwood's piano. She told Target 8 last week that she paid Christian Brothers in April 2016 to restore it but soon after was unable to reach anyone to check on the progress. She also filed a report with GRPD last week. It wasn't until Monday that she received a text from Grill, who said he was finally trying to finish the job that was due more than a year ago.
Grill told customers he lost touch after he was forced to move to Florida to take care of his brother, who had been injured in a serious motorcycle crash. But Grill's family told Target 8 the accident happened in 2015 and that Grill's brother had been living on his own for a year.
"I can understand going dark for a month or two in an emergency, but to go that long and not return phone calls, to abandon customers and keep their possessions, that's ridiculous," Sherwood told Target 8 Monday.
Customers had grievances against Grill long before his brother's accident. The Kent County Sheriff's Department confirmed it investigated two complaints against Christian Brothers Piano in 2013 after customers were having trouble recovering their pianos. Ultimately, detectives helped ensure the pianos were returned to the owners and criminal charges were never filed.
Sgt. Joel Roon told Target 8 that this type of case is a "gray area" because larceny typically requires the prosecutor to prove that the accused had no intentions of returning stolen property, which Roon said can be difficult.
Grill did not show up Monday morning when Smith's piano was picked up, but later in the day, Target 8 found a van registered to him in front of the storefront. No one answered the door. Grill has not responded to multiple voicemails, an email or a text message seeking comment.
Sherwood is hopeful but skeptical that she'll get her piano back. Grill has pledged to waive any additional fees that she would have paid had it been returned on time.
Smith, on the other hand, is just happy her John Broadwood & Sons is in now good hands.
"Everything you've done is great. ... Thank you, TV8, for getting involved," she said.
Christian Brothers Piano has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau. Officials with the BBB urge consumers to research companies before giving them business.
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