HOWELL – The Record Store, a beloved comic book and music shop, will close on Jan. 31.
The Record Store, Route 9 north, Howell, stood out with its giant cassette, a sign that read “Music! Comics and other neat stuff,” a Superman light and painted messages in the window advertising an impressive used CD collection.
Recently, owner Jeff Lega announced he would be closing the modest looking mom and pop shop and that meant many locals would be losing their favorite store; a place they have visited for 30 years for music and comics.
A message posted on social media states that Lega “has decided to close down The Record Store at this time. He has been involved with the music business now for over 45 years. The Record Store did start out as a record store in Howell over 30 years ago. He has seen many ups as well as many downs, but he has stuck with it all this time. However, in the last few years he has found his enthusiasm waning and more importantly, his heart has just not been in the business anymore.”
Lega, who will turn 60 this year, said given this may be the final chapter in his life, he wanted to explore other adventures and opportunities.
“I am blown away, honestly, by the outpouring of emotion. I did not anticipate that (reaction) at all. I mean, it really floored me. I knew people really enjoyed (the store), but I really did not know the depth of how much it meant to everybody,” Lega said in an interview last week.
“I feel kind of bad. I feel guilty because people have come in crying. I am not joking, they have come in crying and I’m like, ‘Oh my God’ and they are talking to me and I can see them (getting emotional),” Lega said.
He said the last few weeks have been tough because he did not expect such an emotional response from the community.
“After we finish this month, it is still going to take me years to get rid of everything. I am not dumping everything,” Lega said.
Lega conducts business online and said he will move inventory in that manner over the next few years.
“That takes me to 64 or 65 years old, and I do not have anybody who can really run the store if I go,” he said, adding this decision is best for his family.
The Record Store started in 1988 and was originally near the corner of Route 9 South and Lanes Mill Road in Howell. The store moved to its current location in about 1998 and has remained there ever since.
The busiest days for the store were usually before Christmas and more recently, a day designated as Record Store Day was a big success for the business.
Lega recalled the 1996 release of Eminem’s first album as being the craziest event in the store’s history. He said the store held midnight releases for NSync and Pearl Jam, but experienced nothing like Eminem’s first CD.
“Tuesday was the release date back then so we could technically sell it at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday,” he said.
Lega said the best story in regard to releases involves Eminem because, as many regulars know, the store sold CDs before the release date.
“We would get the (CDs) on Friday for the upcoming Tuesday release. The funniest story was Eminem because we ordered 600 CDs and we were sold out by Monday morning,” he said.
Lega said if people called the store to ask when a new release would be available, they were told they could not get a new release early, “but if you came down on Friday after 2 p.m. or so, you know you could get all the new releases.”
The business owner said the store’s best year was 1996.
“When I look back on the history of the store, (1996) was like the height of the CD market and stuff like that. We were just blowing out hundreds and hundreds (of CDs) every single day. Thousands of CDs everyday, it was insane,” Lega said.
The rise of digital mediums like Napster led to the decline of CD sales for the store.
The Record Store will continue to have new comic releases up to and including the week of Jan. 23, but will forever close its doors on Jan. 31.