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Schoolkids in Chapel Hill to close


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After 33 years on Franklin Street, Schoolkids packs up


by Mosi Secret

The Chapel Hill location of Schoolkids Records on East Franklin Street is closing its doors for good at the end of March. After more than 30 years of business in the town, owner Mike Phillips says foot traffic virtually died at the store in the last 16 months. "As much as I would like to keep the store open as a national landmark, it's not worth losing money," Phillips says.

He plans to liquidate most of his stock and transfer what's left to the Raleigh location, which will remain open as long as the store makes a profit. "We'll lower things to cost to get rid of them," he says of the Chapel Hill stock, "but that's not exactly any savings for anybody because the damn things cost a fortune."

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Schoolkids Records closing Franklin Street store


Schoolkids might move its Raleigh store this year

David Menconi, Staff Writer

Chapel Hill will soon be without one of its most venerable music institutions: Schoolkids Records, a Franklin Street fixture since the 1970s, will close at the end of March.

It's not the end of the Schoolkids chain, which has stores in Raleigh and Athens, Ga. But there used to be seven Schoolkids stores across the Southeast.

"It was a tough decision, but the world has changed and the business has changed," says Mike Phillips, owner of Raleigh-based Schoolkids. "A lot of my friends across the country with college stores are all singing the same tune," he said. "It blows me away that in a town with 30,000-plus college kids, they don't come to the store anymore."

In recent years, the record industry has been hit hard by consumers who burn their own compact discs or illegally download music. Album sales have dropped 36 percent this decade to 500 million last year from a high of 785 million in 2000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The decline has been even more dramatic for independent music retailers, who compete against illegal copying of music and online and big-box retailers such as Amazon.com, iTunes and Best Buy.

Ric Culross, general manager of the two Triangle Schoolkids stores, remembers a few years ago when there were four record stores within a few blocks of one another on Franklin Street.

"All together, those stores did $250,000 in music sales every month," Culross says. "Now the others are gone, and we're the only music store left there, and we've not even done a fifth of that in the last two or three years."

After Schoolkids contracts, each Triangle town will be down to one large independent music retailer. There's CD Alley, farther west on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill; Bull City Records in Durham; and the Raleigh Schoolkids -- which, Phillips says, will probably move from Hillsborough Street when its lease is up this year.

"It is frightening, this trend," says Ryan Richardson, owner of CD Alley. "But I feel we fill a niche that can be sustained for some time to come by focusing more on appealing to the collector than the casual fan."

david.menconi@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4759

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  • 3 weeks later...


Chapel Hill Schoolkids: Fare thee well

New to the Cat's Cradle schedule, an April 5 show (thanks, Chris!) titled "GOODBYE, SCHOOLKIDS RECORDS" -- in honor of the soon-to-close Chapel Hill institution and featuring Hammer No More the Fingers, Schooner and other fine local acts. Proceeds will benefit the Orange County Elementary Music Program.

Meanwhile, Schoolkids is not going gently into that good night. Bounce over to the chain's MySpace and check out an amusingly hostile little commercial that concludes, "Some people still like CDs...everyone else is dumb."

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  • 3 weeks later...

Did Schoolkids close because it refused to adapt?

Do the evolution

by Andrew Ritchey

If you talk music landmarks in Chapel Hill, Schoolkids Records challenges only Cat's Cradle for the top spot. Since 1974, Schoolkids has supplied the college town with records, cassettes and CDs, but, last week, the storefront was empty and the stock was boxed away in a Raleigh warehouse. As he dismantled shelves, manager Ric Culross put it best when he put it simply: "It's a very sad store right now."


After more than three decades as a leading music store in Chapel Hill, signs on the windows of Schoolkids Records announce the store's close.

Photo by Jeremy M. Lange

Schoolkids' sales have dwindled considerably over the last decade. In 1998, Culross says Buena Vista Social Club's self-titled album was the Chapel Hill location's top-selling record, selling 760 copies. In 2007, The Shins' Wincing the Night Away earned that top spot but sold less than half that number. The music industry's slumping sales are systemic and well-documented, and record stores continue to close: Rhino Records in Los Angeles closed in 2005, the same year The Guardian reported the Virgin Mega Stores chain had lost 260 million British pounds in the previous two years. The stores began closing in 2006. As many as 20 Schoolkids Records outlets once dotted college towns along the East Coast. Now, they remain only in Raleigh and Athens, Ga.

But some industry experts argue that independent record stores could survive and even flourish. Achieving this success, though, may mean overhauling a decades-old model, either by expanding inventory to include non-music product lines or reducing inventory to serve only niche markets. So did Schoolkids close because it refused do either of these?

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Across the country, college-town record shops are biting the dust

BY JUSTIN POPE Associated Press

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — You need a college, of course, but that’s not the only ingredient in a good college town. You need quirky bookstores. Coffee shops — preferably not all chains. A diner. An artsy cinema. A dive bar. There’s one other thing you need, and it’s getting harder to find: a local record store.

The kind of place with poster-covered walls, tattoo-covered customers, and an indie-rock aficionado at the cash register, somebody in a retro T-shirt who helps you navigate the store’s eclectic inventory.

A few years ago on just one block of Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street, the main drag in what’s been called America’s ideal college town, four or five such places catered both to locals and University of North Carolina students.

But with the demise of Schoolkids Records, the last one is gone. Schoolkids had planned to gut it out through March, but couldn’t even make through its final week and shut down Saturday. It’s just the latest victim in an industry hit by rising college-town rents, big-box retailers, high CD prices, and — most importantly — a new generation of college students for whom music has become an entirely online, intangible hobby they often don’t have to pay for.

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