'Nature of business,' not location, is blamed for demise of Liberty Road Record Theatre

February 14, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Competition and sluggish sales have contributed to the closing of a Liberty Road business once heralded as one of the largest record stores in the country.

The supermarket-size Record Theatre, long a hub of the Liberty Crest Shopping Center at Liberty and Croydon roads, closed recently and dismissed its 20 employees.

The closing came eight months after the store received a new facade through a county street- scape program aimed at improving the appearance of commercial areas in older communities.

David Parker, vice president of Record Theatre Inc., said several real estate agents had tried to encourage him to move his business out of the area but that he refused because he felt the Liberty Road corridor was an excellent location.

"The agents claimed that the neighborhood had changed, but we did not believe that," Mr. Parker said. "The nature of the record business is what closed us down, not the location."

Barry Schleifer, executive director of the Liberty-Randallstown Coalition, characterized the corridor as a "very stable community" that is ideal for businesses.

"It's among the highest socioeconomic communities in the county," Mr. Schleifer said. "The community here can certainly support competent businesses."

Mr. Parker said his company was formed in 1974 and was one of the first to venture into the "superstore" concept. Record Theatre opened there with much fanfare in 1979, in a building formerly occupied by a supermarket.

Competition from other music stores and the diversification of other businesses in recent years to include music sections has led to the closing of 12 of the corporation's 19 Record Theatre stores in the Northeast, Mr. Parker said, including the Liberty Road site, its only Maryland outlet.

Community activist Ella White Campbell, president of the Stevenswood Improvement Association, said the closing leaves a void. "I think it's important that we maintain viable businesses in the Liberty Road community," she said.

County Councilman Kevin B. Kamenetz, a Democrat whose district includes the Liberty Road corridor, said he recently sent letters to other property owners in the area in hopes of expanding the facade project and continuing to spruce up businesses as a means of stimulating commercial activity.

Joel Winegarden, president of Honolulu Ltd., which owns Liberty fTC Crest, said his company is in negotiations with potential tenants for the Record Theatre site, its lone vacancy.

"It's not a difficult business area," Mr. Winegarden said. "We anticipate having someone in there very soon."

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