City Paper is not for tourists
Like a finicky houseplant, an independent record store needs a specific set of conditions to survive—bargain rent, space to grow, and, most critically, a location that attracts swarms of corduroy-clad customers. Without an outpost along the hipster cow path, no amount of Smiths import vinyl will keep a shop in business.
So local record stores routinely bounce around from location to location. The move is a lot like a band’s second album: A time of opportunity, yes, but also of danger.
In 2001, for example, Now! Music and Fashion ditched its location in Clarendon and relocated to Old Town Alexandria. There, amid the rug shops and wig stores, it withered. By the time Now! closed in 2004, the best record available on the shelves was the only Captain Beefheart that Allmusic.com doesn’t recommend.
In post-gentrification D.C., the relo pressures are mounting like never before: Rents are going up and once-dead corridors are suddenly hip. To catalog the wandering eyes of area disc peddlers, the Washington City Paper offers the following chart.—Aaron Leitko
Current Digs: Basement of 2318 18th St. NW in Adams Morgan
Status: Not enough space. Basement can’t hold entire desired inventory.
Next Move: Co-owners Neal Becton and Bill Daly plan to part ways. Daly will continue to manage Crooked Beat while Becton will open his own Som Records at 1843 14th St. NW.
The Skinny: The more the merrier. Daly is already restocking the empty bins with Clash imports. Becton should be open within a week.
Current Digs: 1623 Connecticut Ave. NW in Dupont Circle
Status: D.C.’s independent Sam Goody bucks the logic that a record store must specialize to thrive.
Next Move: Margaritaville
The Skinny: The store has been in its present location since 1979 and has no plans to go anywhere. “We own the building,” says owner Jack Manase. “We own the building next door, too. We rent to them.”
Current Digs: 3285 M St. NW in Georgetown
Status: Rent is getting high, and Motörhead mousepads are sliding out of favor with Georgetown students.
Next Move: Smash is considering a move to Adams Morgan.
The Skinny: Although owner Bobby Polski has been eyeing new locations, a suitable space has not been found.
Current Digs: 4215 Connecticut Ave. NW in Van Ness
Status: Despite proximity to both the UDC campus and a Quizno’s, area foot traffic is surprisingly light.
Next Move: The owners might not be renewing Revolution’s lease.
The Skinny: Co-owner Nayan Bhula admits that Revolution might be moving, preferably toward Cleveland Park. He also hopes to add a coffee shop and performance space to the store’s offerings. “I’m not sure a record store can make it on its own anymore,” says Bhula.
Current Digs: 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Foggy Bottom
Status: Battered by outrageous tuition hikes, GWU students have possibly turned toward downloading to fulfill their listening needs.
Next Move: Tower Records has closed at least one regional location. The angry indie-record-store rumor mill has suggested that the Pennsylvania Avenue location may be changing hands in the near future.
The Skinny: “Completely false!” insists Tower Records PR representative Elisa Amore. “Tower Records D.C. is not being sold, and no stores have been closed due to financial difficulty.”
Current Digs: 2010 P St. NW in Dupont Circle
Status: Similar dance and downtempo stores have tried to work the area to little avail.
Next Move: Owner Jesse Graham says DJ Hut is going strong and there to stay.
The Skinny: Just to be safe, the store will soon be introducing some exciting new attractions to lure customers, including digital downloads and limited-edition shoes.