The rain couldn’t keep the multi-hundreds of earX-tacy fans away on its final day of business. The historic record store opened its doors one last time today from noon-5pm to a line that wrapped around the outside of the store. I stood in line with everyone else, arriving about an hour before opening. Even after arriving early, I still found myself about 100 people from the door.
Everyone was there for something different. Some wanted to buy a Jones soda and chat with fellow music-lovers at their favorite music store one last time. Others came just so they could pick up a few of the famous bumper stickers you see on just about every car in the Highlands, brandishing the earX-tacy name. I even spoke to a couple of people who hadn’t yet ventured to the latest of 3 previous locations the store has called home and simply wanted to be able to say they had been there.
When I finally made it into the store, my eyes scanned the room. To the inexperienced earX-tacy customer, the store would have looked as if to be still heavily-stocked even after being slammed with nearly 1,000 visitors the previous day. However, to those who had seen the store in its hay day, the store looked extremely bare. No longer did the store look like a never-ending library of musical media that would take days to inventory. But instead, reminded me of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, in that everything was disappearing, leaving nothing but “hooks and some wire.”
Either customers were just bidding a final farewell to the iconic store or they were looking for some good deals, but I tend to believe the former. I fingered through a few of my own favorite genres. Taking 25% off of my favorite album with a $17.99 sticker on it didn’t make me sprint for the register, but that’s when I began to understand. As I wandered around the store, taking it all in, I saw people with stacks and arms full of records and CD’s. It wasn’t really about finding a bargain or doing some serious Christmas shopping. I think it was about not wanting to let go, not wanting the ride to end, like people thought their last purchase could somehow help save their beloved store. It was a real testament to what earX-tacy meant to the people of Louisville, letting go like their best friend was moving away and never coming back.
I suppose many on the outside looking in will read this article and say “if these people loved it so much, why did they let it fail?” While that may be an easy question, the answer is not as equally simple. We like to all assume that our favorite local bookstores, coffee shops and music stores will always be there for us. Yet, we download the next bestseller to our Kindles and iPads, pick up a latte from Starbucks on the way to work and pick up our favorite hit singles off services like iTunes and Amazon. The changing of our major industries greatly affects how our local businesses pay their bills. Though we still love the warmth, knowledge and customer service that local shops like earX-tacy can bring, it is hard to ignore the convenience and low prices that big businesses tote.
Blames can be placed as to why earX-tacy finally met its demise, but it probably wasn’t the location changes, prices, or management. No, earX-tacy likely fell victim to the same juggernaut that every small business fears – big business and their low prices.
Before leaving the store, I managed to talk to the man himself – John Timmons. “So has it sunk in for you yet?” I asked.
“To be honest, it sunk in a while back and this is going to sound weird, but it’s a bit of a relief actually,” admits Timmons.
“We did everything we could over the years to have more days like we have today, but… we’ve had a great run.”
“It’s the stories that people come up and share with me, about how they met here and got married or grew up skateboarding down these sidewalks [on Bardstown] and dreamed of working here one day, that make it all worth it,” Timmons recalls.
EarX-tacy's employees were certainly its best asset over the years. Their passion and music knowledge really gave you something that you will never receive from a store like FYE.
When I asked John what he planned on doing with the earX-tacy brand, he expressed a couple of ideas.
“Well, the name and my car are about the only thing I still own,” jokes Timmons.
John plans on hanging on to the naming rights in the case that someone comes along with interests of licensing the brand. John also says he may use the brand along with the website to continue to sell branded earX-tacy t-shirts and apparel.
While waiting in line this morning to get in the door, a nostalgic fan shared with me his memory of earX-tacy when it was located on Poplar Level Road. He described it as a “tiny” store that sold cassette tapes, no CD's and was probably a quarter the size of the store’s most recent location.
“There were always at least 12 people in that store and in that store, that was really crowded. You were bumping into somebody,” he said.
That is likely how a lot of dedicated earX-tacy customers will choose to remember their Louisville record store – a place where it was fun to talk, buy and share one of life’s greatest art forms.
I walked back to my car, carrying my earX-tacy bumper stickers, All Time Low CD and Jones root beer thinking back on the last concert I saw there featuring local hip hop phenom - Jalin Roze. I tip my hat to a record store that did so much for promoting local music talent and supporting the vast music scene that is Louisville. As I finish the last gulp my Jones soda I leave you with this message from the earX-tacy website:
“Please keep the music alive. Support the incredible music scene and independent businesses we have here! Until you leave this great city, you cannot realize what a unique treasure we have here. Embrace it, celebrate it, and promote it. Love it.
Thank you all for making my dreams come true. Thank you for making ear X-tacy the wonderful place that it was. I thank all of the staff that made this store THE hub for music in Louisville for the past 26 years. Please take pride in knowing that YOU have been the heart and soul of what this store became. Thank you for sharing my dream and exceeding all of my expectations! To all of the musicians who have graced our store and stage, I cannot tell you what a thrill it's been. From the local newbies to the incredibly huge national artists...THANK YOU for gracing our store and sharing you incredible musical talents with us all...that's what I like to call: "earX-tacy". Love, peace, music and ear X-tacy to you all.”
-John D. Timmons
Article photo courtesy of: earX-tacy
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