Record Store Day is this Saturday. So where is all the new music?
December 30, 2014 started out like any other day. I’d decided to go to Northgate in search of marked-down Christmas albums at For The Record and leftover holiday CDs at f.y.e. I was stunned at what I saw. There, in f.y.e.’s window, were several of those horrible yellow going-out-of-business placards. “Not again,” I sighed. I’m not sure if any of the customers parading in and out of the store understood what this actually meant. But I did. Once the f.y.e. sign was officially flipped to closed for the final time in mid-January, there would be no more “genuine” new music retailers in Chattanooga. None.
I can still remember buying my first 45s at Jack’s Music Shop on Market Street. They included “Wedding Bell Blues” by The Fifth Dimension, and three of Glen Campbell’s best: “Gentle On My Mind,” “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and “Gavleston.” And yes, I still have all four of them. After leaving Jack’s, there were also times I purchased albums at Kress’s and Woolworth’s.
Then Eastgate took over, and my downtown music shopping became less frequent. Record Bar, and later Canned Sound, almost always had everything any music lover would want. If they didn’t, there was the Eastgate Woolworth’s, G.C. Murphy, J.C. Penney, and Eckerd that also sold current records and 45s. If I was still unable to find the hottest tunes, Brainerd Village had W.T. Grant, College Hi-Fi, and Service Merchandise. A little further down Brainerd Road, there were Hills, Paradise Records and Jubilee City (which later became Gibson’s, then Richway, and finally Target).
Never did I think the day would come whenever there would only be two “pure music” retailers left in this city. But it did. A little over a year ago, Hamilton Place Mall management forced one of the two f.y.e.'s that was left here in Chattanooga to shutter its doors. Then, on December 30, Northgate Mall management followed suit and the last “legitimate” music retailer in this city’s doors were closed in mid-January. People thought the decision was due to the ease of ordering through places like Amazon or via your favorite artist’s personal website.
But there was never a lack of foot traffic at the Hamilton Place store, and when I checked out there for what turned out to be my next-to-the-last time, I asked two store clerks if this was f.y.e.’s decision. They both said they were being “forced out of the mall.” When I paid what turned out to be my final visit to the Northgate store, I asked three more f.y.e. employees that same question and was given the same answer.
So, in an effort to try and find out why mall owners CBL came to this decision, I emailed Jason Shelton, CBL’s head of leasing for both Hamilton Place and Northgate. I asked why he’d decided they no longer wanted consumers to be able to purchase new music at either of the malls. I waited two weeks for an answer, but he never dignified my email with a response.
What we’re left with are a small handful of businesses in Chattanooga that stock only new music, mostly the big box stores. When compared to f.y.e.’s vast inventory, these retailers’ music selections are minimal. Chattanooga still has places like Chad’s, For The Record, Inherent Records, Mayfield’s All Killer No Filler, McKay’s and a few others. But much of what they stock is vintage. So how are supposed to keep the new music playing?