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Ottawa - Record Runner closing down.


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Lynn Saxberg, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Thursday, January 12, 2006

After 31 years in business, Record Runner owner Jim MacCracken plans to close the Rideau Street store on Jan. 21. Ottawa's oldest independent music store is one of the businesses that must vacate its premises by the end of the month to make way for a condominium project to be constructed between Besserer and Cumberland streets. Despite a year-long search, Mr. MacCracken has been unable to find a suitable new location.

With time running out and Mr. MacCracken losing sleep, he has now faced the reality that he needs storage space for the store's inventory and fixtures -- in case a new location materializes in the next few months.

It doesn't look promising. Mr. MacCracken is seeking about 2,500 square feet of retail space, preferably on Rideau Street or in the Byward Market area, where the rents are "unbelievable," he says.

"It took a whole year for it to become obvious that I wasn't going to find this," a dejected Mr. MacCracken said, picking at a salad during a lunchtime interview yesterday.

"I did look at Plan B, which was re-establishing in another end of town, and I didn't have the guts to do it. I just felt like this is where I belong and to go somewhere else just isn't me. I just couldn't do it."

What irks him most is that the store is doing well. Although major-label CD sales have been declining in recent years, partly due to changing technology and unauthorized downloading, Record Runner's sales are up.

"Business is excellent," he says. "We have, for some reason, bucked the trend. We've actually become stronger since the year 2000.

"I think the regret I have in this is that if a store ends because it failed because of the times or the technology or you let it slide ... that's the way a business should go out. But for us, literally in our prime, it's really hard to take. I could see myself needing therapy to get over this."

Record Runner is not only Ottawa's Frank Zappa headquarters, it is the place to go to buy new independent music by hot Canadian bands such as Arcade Fire, Metric and Broken Social Scene.

And with more and more young people listening to punk and metal, two of the store's specialties, staffer Simon Pottery says there's often an after-school rush between 3 and 6 p.m.

"We never used to be really strong with young people," says Mr. MacCracken, "because we were never selling pop. But a lot of young people are into indie and alternative music now, whereas they weren't really 10 years ago. So we have a younger crowd, but we still have people who shopped with us in the 70s, and these people are really upset that we're closing."

One disappointed customer is Brian Hebert, a real estate lawyer who's been doing his best to help Mr. MacCracken find a new spot.

"I'm not traumatized by it, I'm just pissed off at Jimmy for letting the thing go. He was told way, way back that the condo was going up. It's the only record store I shop at. I've been in there faithfully since 1974."

When Record Runner first moved to that part of Rideau Street, it was a lively shopping area. "It was all action," Mr. MacCracken recalls. "People were coming in and out of every store and it was really a fun little strip. All these boutique-type places in one block, they weren't chains, they weren't established names. They were just individual people who opened these funky little shops."

Until 10 years ago, when he stepped away from working the floor, Mr. MacCracken took pride in turning people on to new music. "I knew so many of my clients' tastes back then, I knew exactly what they liked, and that was my thrill," says the 58-year-old music fan.

Now he makes sure he hires people who know music, including several Ottawa musicians. Buried Inside bassist Steve Martin, who was behind the counter yesterday, says it's a great place to work because he is able to get a month or two off to tour. City bands have always been encouraged to bring in their CDs and drop off posters or handbills to advertise gigs. The store also sells tickets to shows, including performances at the Capital Music Hall, which is on the same soon-to-be-demolished block. It's moving to Surface nightclub on York Street and will be renamed the New Capital Music Hall, said co-owner Steve Monuk.

Mr. MacCracken plans to continue operating J. Mac Music, his wholesale music company, and increase his online presence. He's also thinking about selling the Record Runner business.

"We're going to save all the fixtures and store them in the hope that someone will have the courage to do what I'm afraid to: open in a different end of town or try a different product mix," he said.

Four full-time employees (including Mr. MacCracken's wife, Frances, who looks after the books) and eight part-timers will lose their jobs when the store closes.

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Record Runner has been rocking me for well over a decade...gebus, drol, dog, more like allmost TWO decades.

I hope they reappear someplace better.

Redeau street sucks nasty, crack, ass anyways.

Que onda, que onda, la locura de gallos. Condos shmondos.

or...the weather sure is warm here in slOw-town mabey we need more condos and even more SUVs...spring in febuary for real rather than just in my mind would be lovely.

shit i'm shedding a tear about this...as if this city needs to lose any more soul.

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that really sucks. i know that they were looking really hard for the past year or so to find a space downtown that would hold a 1200-1500 capacity music hall, an expanded Record Runner, a cafe / coffee shop and possibly rehearsal space / recording studio.

that would have been a pretty sweet complex.

in other news, anyone know how the taxpayer funded multi-million dollar chamber music hall supposed to be built on Elgin street is going? is that still on the books? frikin waste of money if so.

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When I was 15...I went to record runner for my first time, half baked and walked out with

English Beat

The Who

Steppenwolfe

Led Zepplin

The white album

The Clash

and the good ol'

Gratefull Dead

That was a glorious daze.

...........ohhhhhhh............ :(

man if my photos weren't all burned I'd post a pic of me and shan at 15 outside of R.R....hahaha...imagination here instead...me in my striped mini skirt and stupid pointed shoes and her in her rad neil young tassle suede jacket, over the knee boots and beatles shades...hahaha...we were sooo coool...hahaha

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Just want to echo the "this sucks" sentiment. This has always been my favourite record store in Ottawa, even when Shake was around. I have so many memories of buying records here over the years. I'll never forget Terry and the awesome hair he rocked in the early '90s!

Dalhousie would be a great location. There are lots of cool little stores struggling at the north end... would be cool for the Runner to relocate and draw their clientele to the area.

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Record Runner and Spinables were my first exposure to "big city" record shops when my 18-year-old ass moved to Ottawa in 1995. I remember spending HOURS browsing and listening to random shit, ordering foreign release Jane's Addiction singles, and going to see the "in-store" performances there. My favorite one was the Rheostatics at Record Runner in about 1996 in front of around 20 people. We were just able to request anything we wanted, and they brought some girl up to sing Ballad of Wendel Clark with them. Good memories of that shop!

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Funny, I was in London today and it appears that Dr. Disc is closing their doors there as well who have been there since forever. Their selection has been shite as of late though which obviously doesn't help, plus there is another shop next door that has a great selection that seems to have pushed them over the edge. Record Runner always had an excellent selection though, very surprising. Guess the MP3 craze is really affecting the industry as a whole. In fact, apparently Sony are no longer producing CD laser transports if that's any indictation of what's going on out there...

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Record Runner always had an excellent selection though, very surprising. Guess the MP3 craze is really affecting the industry as a whole.

Actually, the article states that the store was doing quite well; the new condo pushed everyone off the block - RR, Mexicali Rosa's, Capital Music Hall, everyone's forcibly evicted for the building to be destroyed.

Speaking purely architecturally, that can only be an improvement - but not at the cost of good places like that...

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Having seen the independent neighborhood bookstores (House of Spec Fic comes most readily to mind) get mashed and mowed down by Chapters over the past ten or so years, I'm relieved to see that independent record stores have gone the other way in the face of mega-chains like HMV. So, it's bittersweet to see Jim closing shop: it's nice that he's packing it in on a high note.

But damn... :(

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