Capital Records owner Rob Cohen, right, and employee Spenser Thomas, left, hold up some of their favorite records amidst the seemingly endless stacks of music surrounding them in the store. Thomas shows "The Velvet Underground & Nico" by the Velvet Underground, and Cohen holds "The Who Sell Out" by The Who.
Story last updated at 1/14/2009 - 1:41 pm
JUNEAU - They're dropping like flies. Small, independently owned record stores all over the country are going out of business faster than they can be remembered. Juneau's own Capital Records will take its place in the record store graveyard at the end of January, when it plans to close its doors for good.
"For music shops, the writing has been on the wall for a while," said Rob Cohen, owner of Capital Records since 1997. He said that with more and more people acquiring their music through digital means, it has become more and more difficult for stores like his to stay in business.
"Large record companies themselves are putting all their energy toward digital, so when the people who make what you sell don't want you to be the ones selling it, you sort of take a clue from that," Cohen said.
He believes that since Juneau is a smaller town with a more locally-minded clientele, his business was able to stay afloat longer than many larger stores in the lower 48. It has also benefited from the business of cruise ship tourists and crew members during the summer, which has been the bump they've needed to make it through the rest of the year.
For many of the store's loyal customers, it's sad enough that they will now have to travel to Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, or amazon.com to purchase hard copies of music. On top of that, many feel that this is the demise of a social institution in the community.
"It's so much more than just a place to buy something," Cohen said. "It's a social nexus, a place where people meet, talk, and interact. There's a human element to it that's a little clunky from a 21st century mentality."
Ed Blair is one of the many people who are truly sad to see Capital Records close. An avid record collector, Blair hosts a radio show Saturday nights on KRNN called "Our City Is Burning." He airs everything from hip hop to punk rock to metal, and often broadcasts via turntable.
"It's awful 'High Fidelity' of me, but there's something neat and special about a music store that you can go into that isn't owned by a big corporation," Blair said.
One of his favorite elements of the record store experience is the impulse buy. Buying music on the Internet is usually very intentional, he said. However, when wandering around in a record store, you never know what you may find.
"I was down at Capital Records this summer and found 'Mule Variations' by Tom Waits," Blair said. "I wasn't looking specifically for that record, but finding it was really awesome."
Finn Straley of Sitka was browsing through the store while in town last week, looking for the new Animal Collective album. He said that Sitka has no business that can compare to Capital Records and expressed shock to hear of its closing.
"I can't believe this place is closing," Straley said. "I can't imagine Juneau without this place."
The business has served as more than just a place of commerce in the twenty years of its existence. Cohen described it as "an interface to the community" in spreading awareness of local cultural events. He recalled when big bands like the Misfits came to town and signed autographs out of his store.
Cohen said he realizes that his industry is tough even in the best of times, let alone during a national economic crisis.
"I've known this day would come for a while," Cohen said. "There's no use being a relic ... just because you enjoy it personally."
Even though his storefront will soon no longer exist, Cohen plans to continue his role in Juneau's music community. With more time on his hands, he hopes to perform more often, playing in jazz trio with various other local musicians. He also plans to teach music lessons, both private and group-oriented. He said it's one thing to teach one person to master their instrument as a soloist, but it's a whole different ballgame to get people to learn how to play together as a functioning ensemble.
Cohen also hopes to do some music-related writing, utilize his recording studio, and simply spend more time with his wife and friends.
"I'm going to miss the people, folks coming in and having an opportunity to interact," Cohen said.
He recalled his father's hardware store where he spent much of his childhood.
"I saw his greatest joy in just interacting with his customers and forming bonds that stretch way beyond the confines of the store," Cohen said. It was that genuine aspect of Capital Records that he said he'll miss most. Despite the positive aspects of the Internet, he said he is sad to see that venues of personal interaction are disappearing from culture and music as a whole.
In hopes of liquidating the many stacks of CDs, LPs, and DVDs that surround the store's small amount of walking space, everything will be on sale with a minimum of 30 percent off. LPs will be 50 percent off, and Cohen promised great deals on guitars. Special orders will still be taken at full price through the end of the month, and the last day of business will be Jan. 31.
"I'm going to move on," Cohen said. "I have no regrets. It was a good ride while it lasted."
Contact Libby Sterling at email@example.com.