Still Praying for a Savior for Record Theatre

One last call-out to save one of the Buffalo/Niagara  area’s    great cultural institutions

A Hope and a Prayer from Doug Draper, a friend of Record Theatre

Posted August 7th, 2017 on Niagara At Large

Since first getting slugged in the gut with news this June that my all-time favourite record store in our greater bi-national Niagara region will soon be closing for good, like a lot of other music lovers across Niagara, Ontario and Western New York, I began praying that someone who shared the same love and had the money, would buy this great store and keep it alive.

Customers begin lining up outside Record Theatre’s flagship Buffalo store for annual ‘Record Store Day’ this past April, just weeks before plans to close store were announced. Photo by Doug Draper

Now here we are, two months later, with the once vast inventory of vinyl and CDs now rapidly depleting and a closing day at the end of August bearing down, there is still no sign of anyone willing and able to save Record Theatre around.

It’s beginning to feel like that hapless dreamer in the old Bruce Springsteen song who has been ‘wasting their summer praying in vain for a savior to rise from these streets.”

The beginning of what now is looking like the end of Record theatre and its large flagship store at the corner of Lafayette and Main Street in Buffalo came this past winter when the Lenny Silver, the music loving entrepreneur who founded it 41 years ago, died at age 90.

Shortly after the good man’s death, a branch store in a plaza in nearby Amherst was closed, but those in control of his state offered the usual assurances to customers and staff alike that the flagship store was not going down.

A look inside Record Theatre before the deluge. Photo by Doug Draper

“We’re still here and we’re not going anywhere,” insisted a representative of the holding company before Record Theatre went on this April to draw long line-ups for its 10th annual “record store day” sale – less than two months before the final shoe dropped.

The wonderful staff that shared a loyalty bond with Lenny Silver for years – people like Joe and Andrew and Tony and Jeremy and Ariel and Nikki, and of course, Rocky, who have given Record Theatre such a warm and welcoming human face – have continued stocking and ringing out what is left of the inventory as they, like the rest of us, come to terms with what now looks like the inevitable.

Rocky has been greeting customers entering the store for much of its 41 years. Photo by Doug Draper

Rest assure, this great tore – the last big one of its kind from the golden age of record stores in this region – will be missed when it is gone. As it was, Record Theatre was the only one of its kind left where you could walk in and find almost any title by any artist that popped into your head, and if it wasn’t there, you could have it ordered and waiting for you within a week.

Tony, one of the store’s veterans, could write his own book on the record industry. I’ll miss his advice on the hits and misses around all the titles out there. Photo by Doug Draper

Record Theatre has been one of those stores a music fan could explore for hours and after thumbing through the titles, or through word of mouth or listening to something being played on the sound system or talking to the knowledgeable staff, discover a gem of an album that you continue to treasure for years to come. I can thumb through my own record collection at home, and it doesn’t take long before I find something that brings back memories of who I was with and what else was going on in my life when I found it in that store.

If all of that music I found there and the memories that come with it are all I have left of Record Theatre and all the nice people that worked there at the end of this August, then there is something rich and lasting that lives on in that.

Yet a few weeks away from a closing date, that dreamer in me won’t give up.

I still find myself for a savior to rise from the streets and  keep alive this last of the grand old record stores in our cross-border region.

How about maybe Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel or Stevie Wonder, or a great old hometown artist like Ani DiFranco, or Doc Severinsen, the former Tonight Show Band leader who released some great albums on Lenny Silver’s Amherst Records label.  Are you listening?

Here is a recent Buffalo, New York newscast on the closing of the door that you can view by clicking on


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