A swan song for Chick's record store In time of CDs, vinyl loses out

May 10, 1992|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

Back in the glory days of Chick's Legendary Records, gangs of rock 'n' roll bands would hound owner Harry Veditz Jr. for the chance to play for free at his annual summer thank-you party for customers.

That was in 1978, during the first flowering of the punk movement in America, when the record store was on Sulgrave Avenue.

Almost 15 years later, with two changes of address and a half-dozen music fads come and gone, Mr. Veditz had trouble getting a band to play at Chick's going-out-of-business party last night.

"I called up the Polkats," said Mr. Veditz, 43, a state safety inspector, "but they weren't interested."

So Mr. Veditz -- the Chick for whom the store is named -- said goodbye to loyal customers who have followed him, from Sulgrave Avenue to Smith Avenue and finally to Reisterstown Road, with a subtlety absent in the old days when the Slickee Boys rocked Mount Washington.

It was probably more fitting.

By the time the end had come for Chick's Legendary Records, sales of baseball cards were subsidizing the hard-to-find rock 'n' roll for which the store was once well-known.

"Even though I took business courses at the University of Baltimore, maybe it didn't sink in," Mr. Veditz said of his inability to turn a profit on the sound of music. "There are a lot of other independent music store owners in this town who are really obnoxious and all of them have done very well. Obviously, I'm doing something wrong."

Maybe it's because he loves music more than money.

A devotion to vinyl records -- he owns about 12,000 LPs and 7,000 45s in a private collection -- spilled over into a business that was reluctant to take part in the revolution of cassette tapes and compact discs.

"I'll argue with any CD lover that albums still sound better," he said. "And I like the packaging of albums, the art that comes with them. I know that albums scratch, skip and pop, but we have CDs that do the same thing."

His passion for purity aside, Mr. Veditz had to acknowledge that few are buying vinyl records anymore and fewer labels are making them. When he capitulated five years ago and began stocking CDs and tapes at his old store in a Smith Avenue shopping center, his customers had dispersed.

JTC "When people want music these days, they just walk through the mall," said store clerk Adam Turkel, 16. "They don't care that the prices are higher."

More and more, Mr. Veditz and partner Don Webb found themselves catering to savvy 11-year-olds looking for a Cal Ripken Jr. rookie card instead of a long-playing copy of "Roman Gods" by the Fleshtones.

Yesterday afternoon, a few hours before the party started and a week before he closes the door for good, he sold a copy of "The Crazy World of Arthur Brown" on Atlantic for $15.

He will store leftover stock in his basement, take some of the stuff to yard sales and flea markets, and put classified ads in collector magazines for the rare records.

G; "You have to move with the times," he said. "I didn't."

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