Bravo! We are in the same boat.
A dealer is not "essential." If it was there wouldn't be nearly as many people involved in this hobby.
While I'm happy that you have a good dealer in your area, the sad fact of life is that the vast majority of audiophiles don't. A few years ago there were 5 or so dealers in the Nashville area carrying a variety of products. Now there is one and unless you want the few high end lines he carries you are shopping here.
Yes, especially if a new hi end turntable is sought. My town has had a single hi end dealer, in business for 30 years. Carry's most of the main line equipment. They received their education from Michael Kay at Lyric in New York City. Visiting Lyric during the eighties and nineties was one of the horror experiences of a high end consumer. Michael catered to the Issac Stern type, who was one of his customers. If you walked into Lyric and they did not think you could spend $30K plus, you could not get an hello. I have not been there recently so I cannot speak to what is like since Michael left.
We also have a B&O store front in my town. They do very well also.
I'm all for good dealers and have definitely developed a relationship with the one good dealer in my city, but what about a manufacturer standing behind their product? I couldn't find your thread about what happened with PSB, but if it took your dealer getting heavily involved, I wonder how customer oriented PSB is.
It seems like one of the main areas a dealer / paying for new works on behalf of the customer is the warranty and any service that is necessary. But I would assume, and hope, that both dealer and manufacturer are behind me and the product I have. The times I have needed service, I have felt like the manufacturer (and the dealer, when they were involved) has more than met me halfway. I'd be disappointed in any manufacturer who made me fight with them for what was reasonable.
If you think you have it bad in your area, try Wichita KS
We have one so-called hi-end audio establishment, however upon visiting the store, I was told by the salesperson, you absolutely cannot run a tube preamp with a solid state amp. They mostly concentrate on home theatre, although you can order, McIntosh, or Velodyne products at retail only.
It's neat to see someone else having a great experience with a Denver dealer. I used Soundings, just South of Denver in Greenwood Village, just blocks from the site of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. Denver is a real audiophile hotbed.
I ordered my Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grands from soundings and then soon added a Pro-ject RM10/Sumiko Blackbird TT/cartridge combination. Not only did I get good, competitive pricing but my TT was set up perfectly.
Recently I borrowed a set of Analysis Plus cables to audition. That's the ONLY way to really learn about cables, by putting them into your system. I quickly realized that I needed a set and was offered a competive price again and I continued to borrow the demo set until mine came in.
The big payoff for me was the setup of my speakers in my room. Soundings uses the Sumiko Master Set method (see separate review) which raise the order of excellence of my whole system by several orders.