Friday, June 1, 2018

Independent Records downtown store closes, but all is not lost

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 1:47 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MIKE STECKLEY
  • Photo by Mike Steckley
After 38 years in operation, Colorado Springs’ downtown Independent Records & Video shop quietly closed its doors this week. But despite the setback, the aptly named Colorado chain is still bucking the retail industry’s downward trend by continuing to operate its Platte Avenue, Platte Annex, Security, North Academy and Pueblo outlets.

The closing underscores the fact that brick-and-mortar record shops have been facing ongoing economic challenges for decades: First came the mall chains like Sam Goody and Camelot Music, then the big-box stores like Blockbuster, followed shortly thereafter by online stores, Napster pirating, Pandora radio, and Spotify streaming. The video side of the operation, meanwhile, was hit hard by Redbox and Netflix. Even pot-related paraphernalia has faced competition from the proliferation of Colorado’s marijuana dispensaries.

Like other Independent Records outlets, the downtown location embraced an old-school vibe, like a kinder and gentler version of the record shop portrayed in Nick Hornsby’s High Fidelity. Local musicians and avid collectors could be found on both sides of the counter. Back in the ‘90s, the store even housed a skateboard park inside the warehouse in back of the store, where upstart touring bands like Rancid and Green Day would play shows.

While the downtown location finally proved unprofitable, there are still glimmers of hope for the retail record industry, not least because of the unexpected resurgence of the new and used vinyl markets. Stores like the supermarket-sized Independent Annex offer the kind of deep catalogue that makes Barnes & Noble offerings look like a joke.

In the film version of High Fidelity, Jack Black's shop-clerk character put it this way: “Do we look like the kind of store that sells ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You?' Go to the mall.” That was two decades ago, and the mall stores are now virtually extinct. Meanwhile, vinyl sales hit a 25-year high last year. In other words, hope springs eternal.

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