The Buffalo area is about to be down to a single Record Theatre location.
A week after the death of the company's founder, Leonard Silver, Transcontinent Record Sales has announced that it will close the store in the University Plaza on Main Street in Amherst on March 26.
"What this really is about is consolidation, not closing," said Brandon Delmont, head buyer for the Record Theatre stores. "We will be taking all that's left of the stock from the University Plaza location and bringing it down to our flagship store at 1800 Main St. (at Lafayette) and essentially making one superstore."
"This is a sad day," said Michael Pierce, chief financial officer of Transcontinent Record Sales. "There's no way around it – some people will have to be let go. The bottom line is, we have to compete. We can’t continue to lose money at that store. To be totally honest, there were so many times when Lenny would bail us all out, just to keep the store going. But Lenny's gone now. And we have to survive."
The University Plaza store opened in 1985 and benefited from the resurgence in vinyl sales among younger consumers and seasoned music-lovers in recent years. In 2016, according to Fortune magazine, vinyl sales were up 26 percent over the previous year's $416 million total, continuing a trend of yearly increases that dates to 2008.
But that vinyl resurgence came with a price. The popularity of "boutique vinyl" – essentially, heavier weight vinyl pressings in deluxe packaging, with a price tag in the area of $30 for an average new release, and much more for specialty items, reissues, and deluxe box sets, all of which Record Theatre carries – meant that the store would
need to purchase plenty of stock to stay competitive. However, unlike CDs, new vinyl is no longer returnable to suppliers. That means that if something doesn’t sell, the store is stuck with it.
"It makes it tough as a buyer, when you're trying to stock the store, to keep the product in there that people want and the stuff that makes them want to come back for more, when you know that whatever you buy, you're stuck with," says Delmont. "That definitely hurt the University Plaza store."
The closing of the store is not related to Silver's death, said Pierce, who has been with Transcontinent for 42 years.
"We had made the decision after a long process back in September, before Lenny went into the hospital. Lenny entrusted the carrying through of these decisions to me. We'd agreed that it had to happen."
The rest of Transcontinent Record Sales' business – including its independent record label, Amherst Records – "will continue to do business as usual," according to Pierce.
News of the store's closing culminates a bad week for fans of long-serving independent stores in Buffalo: Talking Leaves Books also announced the closing of one of its two stores, and indie vinyl shop Spiral Scratch closing its doors for good. But Delmont said he remains hopeful.
"This is bittersweet, but it’s a positive move for us," he says. "We will still be doing everything we're known for – participating in Record Store Day (April 22), stocking all the new releases, working with used vinyl, doing special orders. And with the one store serving as a hub, we plan to do more in the community, through in-store performances and things like that. We just want everyone to know we're still here, and we're not going anywhere."