Friday, March 07, 2008

The End of Schoolkids

It was sad to hear that Schoolkids Records is closing its Franklin Street store, but certainly not surprising. The Record Exchange closed a few years ago and after expanding into the Little Shop space next door, Schoolkids pulled back out of the expansion some months ago. Jack Campbell shuttered Poindexter Records in Durham a decade ago under pressure from Best Buy and big-box bookstores - add to that the expansion of on-line retailers and downloads (both legal and il-) and I wouldn't expect very many stand-alone rekkid stores to survive. The last physical store that I did much CD buying in was the (also now closed) Virgin Megastore on Michigan Ave in Chicago a couple of years ago - huge selection, great listening posts and it was about the only thing on Michigan Ave I could afford. I've probably only hit Schoolkids twice a year on average over the last 5 years as I've focused more on preserving my vinyl collection and have ordered most of the CDs that I have bought through Amazon. One of the benefits of local records stores was always the ability to go in and just ask the guys behind the counter what was good, but with millions of reviews online, magazines like Paste and Harp and the dozens of others reviewing the latest disks in your genre of choice and my favorite, allmusic.com, that's just not that necessary anymore.

All of that being said, I have tremendously fond memories of Schoolkids going back to my arrival in Chapel Hill in 1978. Schoolkids was in the narrow space on the north side of Franklin Street that later became half the original Pepper's Pizza location and Record Bar had just moved in a few doors down after leaving its Henderson Street location. The standing orders from my upper-classman neighbors in the triple next door at Mangum Dorm were to split my purchases between the stores to ensure both stores stayed open and the low prices continued. And prices were indeed low - a good $2-$3 bucks cheaper at either store than I found when I was back in Charlotte for the weekends or the summer. I'll admit that at the time, Schoolkids had the hipper (read that more intimidating) staff (apologies to PC who didn't start working for RBar until later) so if you wanted something cool, you went to Schoolkids but if you had to fill your Jethro Tull fix, you probably bought it from Record Bar to avoid embarrassment. Schoolkids also of course produced Jefferson Holt, who left the store to become REM's manager early in their journey. Even after their move across Franklin Street, whenever I had cooler folks in from out of town for work meetings, I'd make sure to take them to Pepper's, the Cave or the Cradle and Schoolkids. So while I understand, I'm going to miss 'em.

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