The independent record store tradition suffered another hit Monday when The Record Exchange, open on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh since the mid-'80s, closed. The store had been a popular venue for in-store performances for over a decade, with Little Brother even recording its Live! The Commercial Free EP on the store's stage at the close of its 2005 tour behind The Minstrel Show.
The Exchange's other Raleigh location in Mission Valley is expected to close in July, pending an agreement between chain president Don Rosenberg and another group that will take control of the space.
Rosenberg says he began closing the lowest-profit stores in his 10-member chain early this year to streamline costs and to keep the other locations more viable. Those closings include locations in Charlotte, Greensboro, Blacksburg, Va. and Salem, Va. Rosenberg says he had already withdrawn the chain from The Music Monitor Network--a marketing group of retail chains comprising 100 stores that he founded--because of problems with financing large shipments of new inventory.
Rosenberg points to several problems—from the ease of replicating CDs to the digital model of purchasing a single for 99 cents instead of an album for $16—for the financial struggles of The Record Exchange, which he founded in Roanoke in 1979.
"There is an ongoing series of events that have hurt indie retailers, and they go back a long ways. It starts with the big-box stores and music being seen as a loss leader," he said Tuesday from his Virginia office. "These are all issues we faced, and we did things like DVDs and DVD rentals and online sales to curb them. All of the independent stores face those big problems now."
Several independent outposts still thrive in the region, though, and one of them—Plan 9 Records, a Virginia chain with six stores across that state—has been mentioned as a company that could possibly take over several of the remaining Record Exchange spaces, still open in Mission Valley, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Roanoke and Lynchburg, Va.
Rosenberg could not confirm negotiations, but he said, "It would be a fun store if they were to do it. I can say that." Plan 9 founder Jim Bland could not be reached for comment.
Over 70 bands will congregate in the name of rock at The Millennium Center in Winston-Salem this weekend for the sixth annual Heavy Rebel Weekender. Expect lots of loud guitars, mud wrestling, a haunted house and a car show. For more, see www.heavyrebel.net.