Longtime Longview store's closing sign of shift in music sales
By Jo Lee Ferguson, Special to the News-Journal
June 22, 2013 at 11 p.m.
A constant soundtrack of classic rock plays in the background at CDs and More in Longview, setting the stage for what can only be described as a visit to the old school of record stores.
Old music posters. Handwritten signs. Stacks of vinyl records sitting in boxes, waiting for people to flip through them.
Does anyone even use that term anymore - record stores? But it's how Tom Shomaker started his business in 1987, as East Texas Records on Texas 149. Six years later, he changed the name and moved the business into town, next to what was then the bustling North Loop Six movie theater.
It was 1993, and the first "Jurassic Park" was playing, Shomaker recalled. Moviegoers lined up past his store and around the corner to buy tickets.
Time passed, and soon, time will move on without CDs and More, without its collection of new and used CDs, records, DVDs and VHS tapes, T-shirts and video games.
Sometime around the middle of July, Shomaker will begin what he's calling a "moving sale," with some of his inventory going to a booth at the Greggton Antique Mall and some of it going to a building at his house, from which he plans to occasionally sell items.
CDs and More will be no more.
"It's sad. It's bittersweet. I'm fed up with it, and I'm sad to see it go, both," he said.
It's a story that's played out across many industries, as mom-and-pop outfits such as Shomaker's give up the battle to big box stores that can get better prices on merchandise, and to the increasing number of outlets reached from customers' computers, tablets and smartphones.
"The thing is, everybody's downloading their stuff," said Shomaker, 64. "They're putting the small guy out of business."
Certainly, the way people buy music has changed. Digitally distributed music formats captured more than 50 percent of the market by dollar value for the first time in 2011, according to information from the Recording Industry Association of America.
In 2012, it comprised 59 percent of the market. That growth took place during 10 years, from 2003 when digital sales didn't even register on the association's sales statistics.
Before starting his record store, Shomaker and his wife, Connie, spent many weekends traveling around, feeding his habit of buying old records.
He turned that hobby into a business he says struck a high note in East Texas - a used record store.
"At the time there was no used record store in the area. There weren't any CDs or anything," Tom Shomaker said.
The News-Journal published an article about him way back then, he says, followed by stories in the Shreveport newspaper and on area television stations.
"I had people calling me from Arkansas and Louisiana, because there wasn't anything like it at the time," he said.
He recalls people from Germany, for instance, coming into his shop once, looking for records because countries in Europe didn't switch to CDs as quickly as the United States. He still gets people from Dallas who come to his store because "it's not as picked over as the big Dallas stores."
He still has some regulars, but it's sometimes years between visits. Other times, people will come into the store and recall visiting as young children with their parents.
"I've struggled against the big machines for years. I did all right I guess," he said, but acknowledged he might have done better if his store had embraced the digital age with a website.
"I'm just an old man that's behind the times," Shomaker said, adding that he's surprised his business survived as long as it did. "I'm too old to learn all this new stuff, and the Internet has slowly put me out of business."
His store's passing will further narrow the list of independent record stores in this area. The Texas Music Office Website lists 18 record stores in Northeast Texas, and about 10 of those are independent stores. Several of them focus on specific types of music - Tejano or Christian, for instance - and others house more than one type of business, such as beauty supplies or books.
The state's list includes one other independent store in Longview. JoAnn Templeton said The Reverend E.T. Gospel Music Store was named for her now deceased husband. The South Eastman Road store has been open for 17 years, although she only keeps regular hours on Saturdays, from 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m., because she has a full-time job.
"I keep saying I might close, but people keep saying. 'Where are we going to get good gospel music from?' " she said.
Business is better some days than others, Templeton said, but she thinks what helps keep her in business is that people can find titles in her store they won't find in the big boxes or digitally.
In Carthage, Don's House of Tapes owner Don Rinkles sells new CDs and new and used vinyl. He never changed the business' original name, which reflected the eight-track tapes he started selling.
He's diversified the business in other ways, though, and Don's House of Tapes includes a photography studio, framing business and other services.
The digital explosion, and the local economy, make business difficult, Rinkles said, but the combination of businesses and good customer service have kept Don's House of Tapes going since 1972.
"We've got somebody to help you," he said. "We've got personal attention. If it can be found, we find it."
One industry expert said many record stores were closing a few years ago.
"This was a huge story a few years ago, when there were lots of independent stores and chain stores closing in great numbers, but really the dust has settled for the most part, and stores aren't closing nearly at the rate they were," said Joel Oberstein, president of California-based Almighty Music Marketing.
He credited such things as the annual Record Store Day, on the third Saturday of each April, with changing the public's perception about independent record stores, that they do in fact still exist and some are even thriving.
Many cities were left without record stores a few years back when independent shops and chains closed.
"In fact, there are lots of independent stores opening. There's been a resurgence in physical music retailers," Oberstein said.
For Longview's Shomaker, though, it's the "end of an era overall."
Now, he's hoping the moving sale clears out a lot of his inventory, so he doesn't have as much to relocate. The store is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
"The times have changed until I'm just fed up with it," Shomaker said. "I'm putting myself out to pasture."