For the second and final time, Dave and Julie of Dublin’s Road Records have announced that they are to close the doors on their independent record store. Since it opened in 1997 it has been a mainstay for music nerds, musicians and record collectors, and a constant fixture on the Irish music scene. Just like Plugd records was (and still is, in its current half-life) to Corkonians, Road was a place to go and meet friends, pick up the latest Bonnie Prince Billy record, leave your band’s records to be sold and just drop in to chew the fat with Dave, Julie or one of their equally sound staff members.
Growing up in Cork, I was always aware of Road’s place in Ireland’s musical landscape, as any teenager was in the late 90’s and early 2000s. Since the ‘unthinkable’ happened and Plugd closed last year, I know exactly how Road customers feel right now. The loss of Road isn’t just the loss of a ‘shop’, it’s the loss of a cultural and musical hub, a place of friendship, a meeting place, a centre for like-minded people. And Road wasn’t just a ‘business’ for Dave and Julie, it was a passion. Dave has been so wonderfully friendly and kind to me a number of times since I moved here – including very, very generously donating a prize for the raffle at the Haiti benefit gig I organised – and I would like to say thank you once again to him for that. I’m sure that the regular customers over the past decade or so have so many similar tales they’d like to share, memories that they will treasure.
Since Road first opened, the business landscape has changed. With the advent of digital technology, music collecting became easier and cheaper. A generation of people are being raised without the experience of shopping in independent record stores, because they know how easy it is to buy music off iTunes or torrent a Led Zeppelin back catalogue. Every single one of you reading this has probably bought at least one record online, no matter how much of a technical philistine you claim to be, and most of you have probably downloaded a few albums. That’s how things go these days. The last two years have been hell for record buyers, because most of us simply don’t have the money to buy records as regularly as we used to. Through no fault of their own, many people have had to greatly curb their record buying habits. And the people who feel that first are the independent record stores.
I don’t know if things will change, if somehow a new business model for record stores will appear and enable small indie stores to remain afloat. For a family-run business like Road, there isn’t a question of carrying on while constantly taking a financial hit. So what should indie record stores do? What can save them? I don’t think it’s a matter of people buying more records – it seems to have gone further than that. Perhaps the old model of a record store is dead, and something needs to be created in its place, a store that combines digital with physical album sales.
I don’t want independent record stores to die, and neither do you. But what can we do about it?
Here is Dave and Julie’s letter to their customers. I’d like to thank them and wish them – and their son – and their staff all the best for the future.
How do I begin a piece like this, without repeating everything I wrote nearly two years ago now.
I suppose I would have to say its with great sadness to inform you we are finally closing the doors of Road Records.
Its been a difficult two years since we first faced the prospects of closure and we have literally worked night and day to try and see if we could save the shop and make it a viable business again. The current economic situation in this country added to the many problems we faced in the past have finally caught up with us and we can no longer sustain this little shop.
This time, I am sad to say, there is no alternative for us, we have literally tried everything in our powers to keep this place operating and nothing has worked for us. It hasn’t been an easy decision to make, if anything its even more difficult than two years ago, we have had amazing support from people but nothing we do seems to work anymore.
With debts beginning to build again Julie and myself have finally decided that we cannot take any more risks personally and before things get any worse we will have to finally walk away from the shop for the last time.
I have to say I still have no regrets about the last 13 years, its been a real blast and a pleasure to be here over the years. We have met some amazing people and have become friends with some truly amazing bands. The level of support we have received since last year has been truly mindblowing but so much has changed economically since then that its just not possible to sustain such a small record shop like this anymore.
I am not going to give out about the music business this time around, its just one of those things and we have finally come to a stage where I think the days of the small indie store are numbered. It’s sad to have to admit that but this time I think its true, we can’t blame digital sales, illegal downloading etc, the world is a changing place and I can’t see any room in it for kooky little indie stores like ourselves.
We will be starting our closing down sale this Saturday [17th July] and everything will be on sale at a 25% reduction. We will be open for just one more week after that with the final day being Saturday 24th of July. Literally everything will be going on sale so if you want to pick up a cheap stereo, cash register or stapler, then do drop in.
We would both like to thank each and everyone of you for your support over the years, maybe we will catch up at some point in the future.
We would also like to thank all our wonderful staff from the last 14 years, in person they are – Dylan, Jonny, Jimmy, Gib, Colm, John, Chip and Aengus.
As for what we will do next, the honest answer is we really don’t know, hopefully we can pay off any debts we have and then at least we have a beautiful little baby boy to try and put a smile back on our faces.
Thanks & Adios
Dave and Julie