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Must move: 200,000 items as Record Theatre closes doors

After 42 years as a cultural touchstone in Buffalo, Record Theatre on Main Street will go quiet for good Sunday.

But before that happens, customers will have a few more days to pick through more than 200,000 CDs, LPs, DVDs and books that remain after the store announced it was closing in June.

The flagship store is the last of the local retail chain's locations, which once had 21 locally and in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Rochester, Syracuse and Philadelphia.

"I don't think Buffalo will ever see a store like Record Theatre again," said Mike Pierce, president of Transcontinent Record Sales, Record Theatre's parent company.

In March, another Record Theatre in Amherst's University Plaza, closed after 32 years.

Inventory from the defunct University Plaza store and Syracuse warehouse are being used to replenish the racks, which are still well stocked. The rest will be sold on ebay after the doors close Sunday.

Owner Lenny Silver, a local Grammy-nominated music mogul who died in March, wouldn't have wanted to see the store close, Pierce said.

"Lenny would be very sad that this happened. He elected to keep it going all these years," Pierce said. "He would've recognized that it was necessary, but it was something he put his heart and soul into."

A lone Marvin Gaye LP is the only thing left on a backroom shelf that used to be packed with records. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Silver "threw money into the store to keep it afloat" whenever it dipped into unprofitability, Pierce said, but that's no longer an option. Pierce, who is a trustee for Silver's estate, said he is required to let the store go if it can't stand on its own feet.

Record Theatre saw an uptick in sales after the University Plaza store closed and an increase in foot traffic when news of the flagship store's impending closure was announced in June, but the improvements were too slight to justify keeping the store open until Christmas, as Pierce had hoped.

The store, at 1800 Main St., opened in 1976 and is one of the country's longest-running independent record stores. Measuring 25,000 square feet of retail space, it was dubbed the "World's Largest Record Store." In recent years, its inventory included everything from LPs to used CDs.

Larry Silver, son of the late owner, Lenny, looks through CD's. Record Theatre will close its doors for good Sunday. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

As the music industry went digital and iTunes and Amazon began to corner the music market, the sales floor shrank to 7,000 square feet. Record Theatre joined Amazon as a third-party seller, and the excess space was used by five workers to pack and ship internet orders placed through the ecommerce juggernaut.

The Buffalo store employed 10 people. Altogether, with the closure of the two stores and a wholesaling warehouse in Syracuse, 35 people are out of jobs. The flagship store's employees will gather Sunday to say their final goodbyes.

"Losing two stores and having all this come to an abrupt end is hard to swallow," Pierce said.

Inventory from the defunct University Plaza store and Syracuse warehouse are being used to replenish the racks, which are still well stocked.

The store's neon signs, furniture and cash registers will be sold on the Record Theatre Facebook page. The remaining CDs, LPs, DVDs and books will be sold on ebay.

Transcontinent Record Sales owns the building, as well as a building across the street at 1762 Main St. where the company's offices are. It will put both properties up for sale. The company will still own the Amherst Records label and its discography. Amherst records has the rights to albums by such artists at Louis Armstrong and Doc Severinsen, and bands Silver discovered himself, such as Spyro Gyra.

End of an era: Last Record Theatre location to close its doors

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