Williamstown Record Store Owner Looking to Sell Business, Retire
But one thing hasn't changed: Vinyl records are the gold standard.
"Personally, I was a big record collector, but I made the switch to CDs when CDs came out," March said recently. "I can get tons of what I want, jazz and blues, on CD.
"CD sound isn't as good as vinyl, but it's a lot better than MP3 files."
March has sold plenty of LPs and compact discs in 40 years at Toonerville Trolley Records on Water Street, but his days at the location are coming to an end.
"I want to sell the business," March said. "If that doesn't come off, I'll sell the inventory and retire.
"I've looked on and off [for a buyer] for three or four years, but I haven't really been pushing it."
Now, it's time to get serious about the idea, and, for March, that means counting up the records and CDs that fill the bins and floor space at his store.
"I have to firm up what I've got first," he explained. "The name is worth something [to a buyer], that and the customer base. But the inventory is the main thing."
The customer base includes audiophiles who make the trip from the Pioneer Valley, Albany, N.Y., and Rutland, Vt. And, when you factor in the number of former Williams College students who drop in on visits to campus, the Toonerville circle is even wider.
"Since Williamstown is a tourist town, we have people come in from Europe, Canada, whatever," March said.
March also sells records through his website, toonervilletrollyrecords.com, which lists dozens of titles in genres from R&B to space rock with prices from $3 to $50. But, as the website notes, "Our inventory is too vast to completely list at this point, so we welcome any 'want lists.' "
That inventory continues to grow, even as March himself heads toward retirement.
"I don't have the bin space for the inventory right now, partly because I just bought a couple of trucks of used records," he said.
That is not to say everything in his collection is used. In fact, despite the decline and fall of the big chain record stores that once were a mall mainstay, new LPs are still being pressed, just in far smaller quantities.
In fact, when March talks about the challenges of owning a record story in 2017, the first thing that comes to mind is not demand. It's supply.
"It's frustrating because it's difficult to get the records and CDs," he said. "Records not so much because everyone is downsizing and getting rid of their records, except for the ones I really want to sell — the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and that kind of thing.
"Record companies are issuing new stuff, but it's not returnable. In the old days, you purchased the records, and whatever you didn't sell, you could send back."
Although there are not nearly as many record stores as there were back in the day, the ones that remain have a day designated to promote the business. The industry site recordstoreday.com is targeting both Black Friday and Small Business Saturday to drive traffic to stores like Toonerville Trolley.
And March, who keeps the store open Monday through Saturday from 10 to 6, will be there to serve, at least for the now.
"I pretty much want to travel, hike, whatever," he said of his future plans. "All my friends are retired and get to do the stuff that I want to do."
Tags: music, retirement, store closings,
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