Another beloved independent record store closed its doors today, citing plummeting vinyl sales and higher rents as the reason.
West Village staple Fat Beats, which hailed itself as the "Last Stop for Hip Hop" and was among the last city outlets to sell vinyl hip-hop records, announced its plans earlier this week, delivering loyal customers another blow amid the tough economy.
"The business is down. The rent is up," store manager Eric Winn told the Daily News. "We've slowly lost all of the retail end of the company. ... Between the Internet and Serato [a digital DJ program] that's what hurt the vinyl sales."
The store's walls are papered with autographs from hip-hop's famous artists, including Common and the Fugees. The haven will be deeply missed by those who spent hours browsing its one-of-a-kind merchandise and enjoying the visiting talent lured by its hard-earned reputation.
One employee, James Heinz, who goes by J57, notes the decline in sales he's seen at the store in the six years he's worked there, but says it ultimately doesn't matter.
"Eminem came here a year ago. DJ Premier's coming here today," said Heinz. "Even though the industry's messed up and sales are declining, people know this is the place that started a lot for New York hip-hop. This was the last hip-hop store in New York City."
One usual customer, a deejay, lamented the closure, explaining that although much of the industry has moved online, there's nothing like what Fat Beats had to offer.
"It's something about putting your hands on wax and digging through records. It's something the Internet can't do for you," he told the News. "I have a true love for vinyls."
Disappointed consumers blame Internet retail for eating into the business. Superstores like Virgin and Tower Records also have been forced to close their doors in recent years – and industry veterans fear the closures are indicative of a larger trend.
"It was definitely a landmark for the underground movement of the '90s," hip-hop producer DJ Spinna told the News. "Young people who've never touched wax probably don't know what the closing of a store like this means."
Record stores – chain or independent – aren't the only staples facing closure in recent years due to higher rents and Internet sales eating into their business. Just this week, Barnes & Noble, the nation's largest bookstore chain, announced plans to shutter its 60,000 square foot store near Lincoln Center because the increased rent made it "economically impossible" to renew its lease in that location.