Last weekend the Disc swap South Knoxville experienced a time lag until 1995: the parking lot was full of cars every day, music lovers roamed the aisles, and queues formed as shoppers carried their treasures to the counter. But the transformation was fleeting and the mood was not entirely festive. Many customers paid their last respects to the last local record store to offer new CD releases, while others took advantage of its sudden 40% clearance sale.
After nearly 30 years of throwing silver records – the last 25 at their Chapman Highway storefront – owners Allan Miller and Jennie Ingram announced on Friday they were closing the flamboyant yellow store that had been an integral part of the scene. musical from Knoxville. The news spread across social media, especially those of his former employees, many of whom were local musicians who relied on Disc Exchange for their income, record sales, and the promotion of their shows.
The resulting crowds were a bittersweet reminder of when physical media was the only game in town and consumers bought their music in the real world, sometimes even conversing with other humans in the process. But there was a huge difference between then and now: in 1995, the Disc Exchange employed 42 employees between two stores; in 2016, the store was reduced to five. Friday night, the two saleswomen on duty seemed quite annoyed by the sudden influx of customers.
“Before, it was like this every weekend: people lined up at the counter,” Ingram said with a sad little laugh. “We’ve forgotten what it’s like to have to cut the line really quickly. It was sad this week, but it was fun.
Ingram says she and Miller had been thinking about the decision for a long time. It’s no secret that digital downloads and streaming have restored a once-reliable retail industry. The two-year closure of Henley Bridge, the main driveway to South Knoxville, while it was being rebuilt, also affected the decline in Disc Exchange sales. Even after the bridge reopened in 2013, customers still weren’t making the trip south, having found other ways to get their music, Ingram says. But since the announcement, at least, many buyers have remembered their once favorite music release.
“It’s interesting – people come and buy stuff now since it’s all on sale, and they say, ‘I think I might be part of the reason you’re going bankrupt. Love this place, but haven’t been in years. I just bought digital and I’m sorry! ‘ ”Says Ingram. “They knew we were there, but shopping online is so easy and so tempting, I don’t blame them at all.”
Miller and Ingram began selling CDs at their South Knoxville home in 1987, as smaller, more practical records began to dislodge vinyl as the format of choice. In that prime, pre-Internet era, they peddled CDs by word of mouth, running a direct mail with title lists and ads on campus.
“I remember going out during recording a year, and we would stand in front of the doors as people walked by and say, ‘CD, CD, CD!’ Says Ingram. At first, the couple actually delivered CD orders by hand. They later stocked shelves at a video rental business behind Chapman Highway Shoney’s and were so successful they moved to their own storefront across the street, a former Cas Walker grocery store. In 1994, they expanded to a second location in West Knoxville, which lasted until 2008.
Ingram says there is no set timeline for closing Disc Exchange – it mostly depends on how quickly they sell their inventory. “Maybe at the end of September, maybe even mid-September. We just don’t know – it’s a mystery, ”she said. Until then, music buyers can relive their memories of shopping at a new music store, one last time.
Editor-in-chief Coury Turczyn guided Knoxville’s alternative weekly, Metro Pulse, through two eras, first as editor (and later editor) from 1992 to 2000, then as editor. in chief from 2007 to 2014. He also worked as a web editor at CNET, the former cable network G4 and HGTV.