It’s a bit eerie walking through the Broadway Tower Records store. Everything here is for sale, not just CDs and magazines but the display racks holding them. One of the clerks – Brad – is standing outside taking a cigarette break. He’s only been a Tower employee for about a month.
"I started working here after they were going out of business. They just lost some people so they wanted somebody that was honest and wouldn’t steal and all that stuff because when you go through a transitional phase like this it causes problems."
Brad also lives nearby and he’s worried about what’ll happen to his neighborhood when Tower closes for good.
"I’m kind of scared to see what happens here personally, just because this right here is a big strip of things that should be used and if they let it fester it’s just going to become a haven for crime and vagrancy and all that good stuff."
He says ironically, business is brisk at this Tower Records. Some customers like to reminisce – others just want a good deal. One of those customers is Curtis. He’s on his lunch break looking for some music. Curtis says he doesn’t have special feelings for the store. He’s just here for a bargain.
"Definitely, it’s the holidays so why not."
He speculates that Tower couldn’t survive the competition.
"The internet and you’re dealing with other stores like Wal-Mart where you can get a better bargain so that’s the main reason for the store’s demise. What can you say? It’s business."
Across the street from Tower Records, Patricial Halliday is coming out of the Tower Theater. She’s lived in Sacramento since 1962 and has fond memories of browsing through the racks at both the record and book store. She’s sad to see Tower go but admits to taking advantage of the going-out-of-business sale.
"I bought one book and I’m not going to go back and watch it deteriorate more. It was homegrown. The quality and diversity of music you could buy – it’s not just mainstream. And the people that worked there were very interesting, diverse and somewhat eccentric too."
She’s curious to see what will happen to the corner of Broadway and 16th when Tower shuts its doors.
"I hope Broadway doesn’t go the way of midtown and East Sacramento. I hope it stays cheap enough for people to get a good meal for inexpensive."
Nicky Albus is also eager to see what happens when Tower leaves. She co-owns The Java Lounge on 16th Street, just a block down from Tower Records.
"We’re hoping that more independent businesses end up going into those empty buildings instead of another Starbucks and Blockbuster and so forth."
Albus says although Tower was nationwide, it was still locally run and the Broadway store was a big draw that helped neighboring businesses.
"Though it is a chain, it’s a local chain and something the town could be proud of and we also got a lot of people walking around buying books and going to see movies and buying records that would come in here so it did help our business as well. We’re a little worried having less foot traffic down in this corner."
Right across the street from Tower Records, next to the Tower Theater is a tobacco store called Tower Pipes and Cigars. It’s owned by Mark Just. He inherited the business from his father who opened the store in the 1960s right around the time that Tower Records’ founder Russ Solomon began selling records in the back of his father’s store – Tower Drugs. Just takes time out from helping a customer to think back on those days.
"It was more of a drug store, they had a pharmacy and all of the things that a drug store would have but a listening station for those that wanted to listen to music and that’s basically where the first Tower Records started."
Just says Tower’s closure is the end of an era but he’s optimistic about the future of the Broadway business district when Tower leaves.
"I’m not too concerned with them closing. I think somebody good is going to move into those buildings. So it’s sad to them go but I think overall whoever moves in there, if it’s Tower again or another business I think they’ll do well for Broadway."
And Just may be right. Two of the main Tower stores in Sacramento are expected to keep selling music, D-V-Ds and video games – only under a different name. A national retailer known as Trans World Entertainment Corporation will take over the stores on Broadway and Watt Avenue and reopen them as part of their FYE chain. They could be open as soon as February.