The magnificent Rizzoli Bookstore on 57th Street closed Friday, part of a painful wave of shutdowns. To make sense of it, let's go back a few years, to a Tower Records store outside Boston — where I got a job at 19.
One big lesson from a year at Tower: Things change, and not in the way you expect (or want).
As all wage slaves know, there's a hierarchy of low-wage jobs. It's not at all cool to work the graveyard shift at the supermarket (where I was before Tower). On the plus side, they paid you $1 extra an hour, and after cleaning the front of the store and some other duties, you had time to read. On the minus side, kids you knew from high school would come in on visits home from college and act like they're better than you.
Working at a global record store was cool. We had college kids, starving artists, moonlighting DJs, a high-schooler who was expertly knowledgeable about classical music, visiting performers and the lifers — who made a decent, if not great, living doing something they enjoyed.
We had front-row concert tickets and all the free new-release CDs we wanted, since the travelling salespeople from the labels wanted us to take them home and like them. Back then, the workers at the record store were social media.
And because Tower was a global chain, we got a sense of life beyond greater Boston. I got to spend an hour a day adding up numbers, and learned that the Tower Records at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue did the most sales per square foot — not by a little, but by several multiples.
That gave me a sense of how different New York was. Boston had big spenders, but the city really had big spenders, crowded into a tiny space. And many of us at the suburban Tower aspired to move to New York, London and Washington and work in one of those stores.
Tower, in its own way, was an elite global community — with stores in all the places where the important people rule the world and spend their money.
Today, all the Tower Records are closed. The Tower at Trump Tower is a Donald-Trump-kitsch store. (Which tells you something important about the global economy; I'm not sure exactly what it tells, but it's probably not good.)
Nobody who worked at Tower in the mid-'90s would've predicted that. We had worries, but about the big-boxes: Best Buy and others were selling the top-10 CDs at below-cost prices to lure customers who'd buy other things. That hurt us, because we needed the bestsellers to support the back-catalog inventory.
Still, our powerhouse global chain dominated some of the most expensive retail real estate in the world — an entire building in Piccadilly Circus. The idea that it could vanish because people would listen to their music on a tiny computer stashed in their pants wasn't even a conceivable risk.
The point is: Things change — and not in the way you expect.
That's important to remember now as New York suffers a spate of painful closures.
It's not just Rizzoli. Pearl Paint downtown is closing; J&R Music just closed and the Colony record store in Midtown shut its doors last year. The French bookstore that was once Rockefeller Center's oldest tenant is now a shop that sells little bears made out of littler diamonds.
But even the changes are changing.
Original Source: http://nypost.com/2014/04/13/whats-killing-new-yorks-great-old-stores/