New York City Music Scene Loses Another

By Matt Gitlin, Black Friday Magazine
updated April 18, 2014

As disheartening as it is seeing all the big record stores like Virgin Records and Tower Records shut their doors due to changing times in music, it’s a little extra sad when the small independent shops fall prey to the current trends.

Citing the obvious, high Manhattan rent and the rise of music downloads, a Greenwich Village staple in Manhattan will be kicked out by its landlord this April.  The “evil” landlord is asking Bleeker Bob’s Golden Oldies for an unaffordable $10,000 a month for the store’s current West Third Street location, and employees say that price was going to rise another $1,400 in the next couple years.

Bleeker Bob’s, which opened its doors in 1967 in the heart of Greenwich Village on Bleeker Street, has since changed locales a handful of times.  They will now attempt to still run business on the other side of town in the East Village.  To deal with their current poor financial state, the store intends on joining forces with another small business so that rent can be split and the floor space will be shared.  In the past, Bleeker Bob’s has teamed up with a tattoo shop and comic book business, somewhat unsuccessfully.

The New York Times incorrectly reported last week that Starbucks would be taking over the spot.  However, longtime employee T.J. Foley pointed out that a corporate tenant would be the only one who could afford the high rent.

Bob’s specializes in rare vinyl, a dropping commodity in the age of the Internet download, where even CD’s are becoming less and less popular, let alone vinyl.  Nevertheless, the store still gets customers from around the world due to its unique and quality offering of record albums you just can’t find anywhere else.

“A while back we even had a Russian guy coming in once a year for jazz records,” Foley said. “He would spend a lot, depending on what we had in stock, of course.”

Joshua Gabriel, a 36-year-old who used to work at Bob’s when he first discovered the store in 2004, still comes back for music that he can’t find anywhere else.  Gabriel pointed to such records as a large assortment of esoteric releases on vinyl from the 60’s through the 90’s, and extremely obscure, yet wonderful 70’s and 80’s New Wave.

Foley says a big positive to shopping at Bleeker Bob’s as opposed to online is that you get to see and listen to the product in full before purchasing.  Meanwhile, Gabriel says that the social interactions with store employees proved to be more nostalgic than the music itself.  He complimented years of intelligent staff members who took time and energy to relay their love for music to the customer.

Thirty-four-year-old Remy Bess, who has come to Bob’s for electronic and world music, among other things, has enjoyed shopping at the store in the late evening hours.

Bess stated, “I’m very bummed out. I’m definitely sad about this. These places can’t be replaced.”

The types of pleasure Bob’s gave customers is one that corporate record stores who are now shut down, such as the nearby Tower Records, Virgin Records, and Sam Goody, were unable to offer their large masses of New York City music consumers.

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