Face the music

Record and Tape Traders in Catonsville scheduled to close today

rest of chain unaffected

March 18, 2009|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,joseph.burris@baltsun.com

Loretta Lynn will be leaving the building soon.

The old album cover featuring her big hair and greatest hits is coming down from the display window at Record and Tape Traders in Catonsville, which is scheduled to close its doors for good today.

The company that owns the six-store chain said the Catonsville location has been unable to make a go of it after moving last summer from its longtime site down the street to a smaller location.

The news came as a disappointment to patrons accustomed to the picture window's motif of vinyl discs, concert photos and an old phonograph.

The store is on a stretch of Frederick Road where a collection of guitar, piano and brass instrument shops have earned Catonsville the nickname "Music City, Maryland."

"It's a real shame," said John Tully, one of several customers who bypassed stacks of cardboard boxes partially obscuring the picture window at the entrance Monday.

"This store represents a lot of the music scene, it holds a lot of the feeling about music," the Catonsville resident said. "It's cool to come get vinyl here, because you just can't in a lot of places."

Many once-popular national chains such as Sam Goody and Tower Records have succumbed to online purchasing and one-stop-shopping stores such as Best Buy and Target. But locally, Record and Tape Traders has been a mainstay.

Founded in a house in Towson in 1977, the operation grew and added locations throughout the region.

The Catonsville location was once one of the more popular stores on Frederick Road. The business previously occupied a two-story building on a corner with parking out back and an unmatched display of music from most any genre, as well as movies and posters.

"In the old location, they used to have country, jazz and hip-hop upstairs, and the first floor was predominantly rock," said Joseph Peyton of Catonsville. "I used to come here two to three times a week and buy at least one CD every time I came."

Two years ago, local owners sold the chain to Marietta, Ga.-based Value Music Concepts, which operates regional chains and shopping mall music stores from the South to Northern California.

Brian Smith, a vice president at Value Music, said the Catonsville store had to be relocated last summer to a smaller, one-story building a block away with no parking because the owner of the previous location sold the building.

The new location wasn't big enough to allow the store to offer the variety patrons have come to expect, he said.

The chain's other locations - in Towson, Frederick, Glen Burnie, Westminster and Rehoboth Beach, Del. - are unaffected by the closing and will absorb much of the remaining merchandise from Catonsville, Smith said.

"When they were hot, Record and Tape Traders did bring people to Frederick Road," said Brian Higgins, manager of Bill's Music House, one of the largest music stores on Frederick Road.

Record and Tape Traders used to be directly across from Bill's, which often benefited from the flow of customers.

Other music merchants on Frederick Road are bemoaning the demise of a musical comrade, including workers at Jim's Guitars directly across the street.

"It's been beneficial, them being in that location, because as soon as people walk out of their store, they can see us," said Shawna Potter, manager of Jim's.

The current location is in the middle of a block and has few signs. Higgins said that some patrons at Bill's were unaware that the store had relocated nearby.

While Record and Tape Traders has struggled, other Frederick Road music stores have fared well despite the recession. Bill's recently expanded, and Higgins said sales have been brisk.

Potter said the popularity of video games such as Guitar Hero has led to parents bringing in children eager to purchase a real instrument.

"It's sad to see another empty building, but I'm not worried about this area," Potter said. "The fact that Record and Tape Traders is leaving, I think, is a sign of consumers getting into digital files versus business just being bad. I have no doubt that something else will move in and be very successful in this area."

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