A time to mourn, a time to bargain hunt
Tower's demise saddens many loyalists. Some not-so-loyal shoppers are also left upset.
By Chris Lee
Times Staff Writer
October 11, 2006
The sign outside Tower Records' flagship store on West Hollywood's Sunset Strip underscored the mixture of disappointment and disbelief greeting the announcement on Friday that the giant music retailer would be liquidating its inventory and closing all 89 stores across the country.
"It's the end of the world as we know it," the sign read, deliberately echoing the title of a hit song by R.E.M. "Thanks for your loyalty."
A vigorous going-out-of-business sale was underway Monday, part of an effort by Tower's new owner, Great American Group, to offload the foundering record-store chain's assets over the next six weeks. Merchandise has been marked down 10% to 30% (with deeper discounts promised as the weeks go by), and foot traffic in the store was up by about a third, according to one employee. Despite a snaking line to the register, a somber mood prevailed — an atmosphere conjured, in part, by a baleful ballad by indie rock quintet the Decemberists on the sound system.
But the imminent shuttering of the 46-year-old chain of megastores, one of the largest in the country, was front of mind for many customers, including West Hollywood musician Brent Heller, 37. He said he had been a regular shopper at Tower for the last quarter of a century and recalled bygone days, before the chain's music sales were eroded by the Internet and competition by big-box discount stores such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy, when Tower was a meeting spot-***-hangout for teens: a non-virtual version of Myspace.com.
"I remember buying Bob Dylan's 'Blood on the Tracks' here, a lot of my favorite records," Heller said. "I probably make music because of what I bought here. It's an institution. I'll miss it."