Economy Mutes Louisville Record Shop: NPR

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John Timmons, owner of ear X-tacy in Louisville, Ky., Has closed his record store after 26 years in business due to poor economic conditions. “I’m so associated with this store. I’m the X-tacy ear guy,” he says. “Ear X-tacy is leaving, and who am I going to be?”

Debbie Elliott / NPR


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Debbie Elliott / NPR

Part of a one month series

In Louisville, Kentucky, local businessman John Timmons is trying to figure out the next step after selling music for more than a quarter of a century.

Timmons owned X-tacy ear records for 26 years here. The store closed at the end of October. On a recent visit, dead roses, farewell notes and other keepsakes are stuck to the glass doors. Fans of the store also slipped notes of support under the door.

“It’s hard to let go; after 26 years, this is my kid,” says Timmons. This is the first time he has entered since the store closed.

He was a child born with a cash advance from a credit card and Timmons’ collection of personal records right out of college. He named the store after UK group XTC, one of his favorites in the 1980s. Recently, Timmons has taken on more debt in an attempt to keep the store afloat.

“Over the past year, I rarely listened to music in my office. It was more about making phone calls, talking to creditors, and figuring out how to pay rent or payroll this week. That’s not why I got into this business, “he says.

When Timmons closed the store, he had to fire the 10 people who worked here. It’s a big store: 6,500 square feet, filled with CDs, DVDs, tapes, albums – just about any medium on which you can listen to a song of any genre.

Timmons goes through the vinyl section: Todd Rundgren, Johnny Rivers, Santana, Boz Scaggs.

“We go through the whole range here. We go from AC / DC to Frank Zappa and who knows,” he says.

There is even a stage for live performances. National bands, including the Black Keys and the Foo Fighters, performed free shows here. “Most people, when they think of a record store, think of a shelf at Best Buy or Wal-Mart or wherever they go,” says Timmons. “It was more of an experience where you could come and share your love of music with everyone.”

Jefferson County, Ky., by the numbers

Seizures: 1 in 517

Unemployment rate: 10.3%

Median income: $ 46,661

Sources: RealtyTrac Inc., Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nielsen Claritas

Today ear X-tacy joins the ranks of hundreds like this – another indie music store that just couldn’t make it.

“The music industry is one thing. I was able to survive the changes in the music industry,” he says. For example, with the advent of digital downloads, the store launched an online download service.

“Kids are buying records now. Vinyl is making a comeback, and it’s an area of ​​growth. But I have to believe it’s the economy,” says Timmons. “The last few years have been brutal for us.”

So brutal that last year he launched this public plea for business during an emotional press conference: “I’m not asking for a bailout. I’m not asking for handouts. I’m asking for that proverbial hand.”

Timmons browses the shelves of his now closed business. The record store will have a final clearance sale on November 29.

Debbie Elliott / NPR


hide caption

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Debbie Elliott / NPR


Timmons browses the shelves of his now closed business. The record store will have a final clearance sale on November 29.

Debbie Elliott / NPR

Today, alone in the store, he thanks the customers who have supported him in difficult times.

“I know you only have X amount of dollars. I don’t have money to spend like I had five years ago. People have priorities, and music isn’t everything. just not a top priority right now. That’s what really took its toll on us, “says Timmons.

The timing of the economic downturn could not have been worse, says Timmons, given the other pressures on his business. He says that while iPods are handy, he still finds pleasure in vinyl.

Walking towards a record player near an empty cash register, Timmons turns on the turntable and releases an album by Louisville’s band My Morning Jacket. He chooses a song called “I’m Amazed”.

“I am blessed and I am amazed that it was a great race,” said Timmons.

But looking to the future is daunting.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do for a real job now, since I’ve been doing this for about 30 years. I’m 56. I’m so associated with this store. I’m ‘I’m the guy from the X-tacy ear. X-tacy ear is going, and who am I going to be? ” Timmons said.

Trying to look up, he says that at least he will have some time to spend with his family this holiday season. He won’t be behind the counter of a record store for the first time in 33 years.

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