Almighty Press

July 16, 2006
For a "Dinosaur", an Exuberant Second Life


JUST for a moment, Karl Groeger Jr. considered calling it quits. After all, 36 years was a fine run for a record shop. And it wasnít the best time for a mom-and-pop music store faced with competition from discount chains like Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart, especially in an era when digital downloads are sucking the air out of compact disc sales.

On Aug. 30, a fire had gutted Looney Tunes, a 5,000-square-foot clubhouse for pop culture that had drawn generations of music lovers who liked to thumb through bins of CDs and LPs, listen to home-grown bands and collect autographs from national acts like Incubus that played on the storeís stage.

Mr. Groeger looked at the shopís charred hull, its warped CDs and melted, mangled guitars, and came to a startling conclusion.

He was going to rebuild.

I canít let a faulty extension cord and a fire destroy what we have done here, said Mr. Groeger, 38, who, 15 years ago, along with his brother, Jamie, 35, took over the business that their father, Karl Sr., 58, started in 1971 with an emphasis on a wide selection, personalized service, low prices and support for local musicians.

Back then music stores dotted just about every village on the Island, including Looney Tunes locations in Massapequa and Hempstead, which are long gone. According to the Almighty Institute of Music Retail, a music industry research and marketing firm based in Los Angeles, there are 20 independent record stores on the Island today.

A lot of people said to me: ĎYou shouldnít open up again. There is no way that you are going to succeed,í Mr. Groeger said on a recent afternoon before the storeís reopening. In the last few years, even giants like Tower Records and Sam Goody have been shuttered.

We are a dinosaur, Mr. Groeger said. We are the way it used to be. But we are a dinosaur that still has a million years to live.

On Dec. 1, music was thumping as 700 audiophiles and collectors rushed under an archway of balloons into the newly rebuilt shop with its freshly painted red and black walls, new custom-made browsers stuffed with 30 percent more CDs, a larger selection of vinyl, racks lined with DVDs and a $40,000 sound stage with multitrack recording capabilities. His insurance reimbursed him for the loss, Mr. Groeger said, but he spent hundreds of thousands on the reopening.

Among those combing the aisles were Ryan Mulholland, 14, of Deer Park, picking up rock CDs of the Foo Fighters and Serj Tankian. His parents and sister were hanging out on plush lounge chairs up front by the four listening stations. The original Looney Tunes was the best music store I ever went to, said Ryan, who has 7,000 songs on his iPod, from Johnny Cash to Slayer, but still prefers to collect CDs.

Ryan was at the music emporium a few days before it burned, he recalled, and tracked the progress of its rebirth on its Web site,, where photographs chronicled the reconstruction and counted down the days to the grand reopening.

They said they were going to be better than ever, Ryan said. They were right.

Mr. Groeger has long been swimming against the music industry tide: Since 2003, about 1,200 independent music stores nationwide have closed, with 2,600 still in business, according to the Almighty Institute of Music Retail.

Mr. Groegerís strategy has been to turn the shop into a combination concert site and hangout for punk and heavy metal fans as well as Beatles aficionados. To help stay afloat, he also sells body jewelry, incense, band-themed clocks and Led Zeppelin sweatshirts.

Though 15 percent of Looney Tunesí sales are through its Web site, the store is our vehicle to get the word out on bands, Mr. Groeger said.

We make little bands big bands, he said. Without us, those bands donít have a chance. Bands donít get broken on iTunes; they donít get broken at Best Buy.

Brand New, an alternative rock band from Merrick that went national after playing at Looney Tunes, will perform on the store stage on Monday.

Point Blank, a metal band based in West Babylon and Lindenhurst, was scheduled to make its fourth appearance at Looney Tunes last Thursday. The band released both of its CDs at the store.

Janine Maloney, Point Blankís manager, said Mr. Groeger was like the bandís godfather. At a performance last year, Mr. Groeger let them videotape the concert, featured it on his Web site and promoted the band to record labels, she said. (The band has not yet been signed.)

Among his revolutionary ideas for the reborn store, Mr. Groeger said, was a new pricing structure. All single CDs are either $13.99 or on sale for $9.99 ó $2 below his cost, he said. And a new customer service policy allows opened CDs and DVDs to be returned for a 50 percent credit.

Lost to the fire were 47 guitars signed by artists like Ozzy Osbourne; 50 drumheads, including one signed by Ringo Starr; and dozens of autographed plaques and gold and platinum record awards that made the old shop look like a Hard Rock Cafe.

There is a renewed emphasis on old-fashioned records, including turntables for sale and an LP listening station; 15 percent of the inventory is vinyl, from the Dix Hills jazz legend John Coltrane to the Beach Boysí Endless Summer album.

Don Van Cleave, president of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores, based in Birmingham, Ala., which represents 60 record shops nationwide, said that while it was a scary time for independent music retailers, Looney Tunes remained an institution on the Island.

He noted the outpouring of grief and support from customers and the community when the store burned.

It would have been a giant hole for a lot of young bands if they hadnít reopened, Mr. Van Cleave said.

The old-timers also came back. Sue Keating, 53, of West Babylon, said she bought her first cassette at Looney Tunes in 1972. She brought her daughter, Kaitlin, 17, to the reopening.

Itís homey. Itís your town place ó a mom-and-pop shop, Ms. Keating said, describing herself as a fan of Jackson Browne, James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg but selecting Josh Grobanís NoŽl for herself while Kaitlin settled on As I Am by Alicia Keys. You never get too old for it.

Permission granted by copyright holder for this express use only.

Article List

November 21, 2013 - New York Times - Records Are Dying? Not Here

March 27, 2013 - Glendale News-Press - It's a matter of record: Burbank's Atomic Records and Backside

December 30, 2012 - Detroit News - As one record shop closes, vinyl music plays on in another

April 20, 2012 - - New vinyl album releases give record stores a kick

November 20, 2011 - - In an iTunes age, do we need the record store?

June 9, 2011 - - Curmudgeon Records closes its doors for good

April 16, 2011 - Wall Street Journal - One-Day Record-Store Revival

February 1, 2011 - Charlottesville News & Arts - Plan 9 Changes Location

August 13, 2010 - The Tennesean - Anita Wadhwani: Nashville indie record stores' sales spin in right direction

January 3, 2010 - Delaware News Journal - Delaware music shops get creative to compete with downloads, chain music stores

September 24, 2009 - Los Angeles Times - L.A. independent record shop is still in a groove

August 20, 2009 - CNN Money - You can make money off online music

June 14, 2009 - New York Times - Retailing Era Closes With Music Megastore

May 13, 2009 - Medill Reports - Resurgence in vinyl helps record store in recession

April 26, 2009 - Los Angeles Times - In a digital age, vinyl albums are making a comeback

April 18, 2009 - Charlotte Observer - Record stores band together

April 17, 2009 - Detroit News - Record Store Day spins profits and good beats at Metro Detroit shops

April 17, 2009 - Associated Press - Record Store Day celebrates indie retailers

April 10, 2009 - Detroit News - Street Corner Music moving to Oak Park plaza

April 10, 2009 - Toledo Free Press - New record store shakes up Adams Street

January 8, 2009 - OC Register - Closing date for Virgin Megastore at The Block

October 28, 2008 - Reuters - AC/DC back in "Black" with global smash

September 23, 2008 - Chicago Daily Herald - Independent music stores haven't yet disappeared from suburbia

June 23, 2008 - New York Times - For Tom Petty Fans, the True Sound of Vinyl, Also Captured on a CD

April 19, 2008 - Lafayette Journal Courier - For some, record stores live on

April 19, 2008 - New Jersey Star Ledger - It's Record Store Day. Play it again, Sam!

April 18, 2008 - New York Times - Record Stores Fight to Be Long-Playing

April 18, 2008 - Dallas Morning News - Retailers hope Record Store Day turns up volume at mom-and-pop shops

April 16, 2008 - Timeout New York - Platter Up

December 27, 2007 - Los Angeles Times - Virgin Megastore to close shop

December 16, 2007 - New York Times - For a "Dinosaur," an Exuberant Second Life (Looney Tunes Reopens)

December 3, 2007 - Detroit Free Press - The same old song: Music store closing

November 7, 2007 - Washington Post - Eagles soar past Britney to top of charts

November 4, 2007 - The Ledger - Two Young Entrepreneurs Unafraid of Risk of Going on Records

August 20, 2007 - Billboard - Almighty Taps Hans As VP

June 29, 2007 - ABC News - Long Live the Record Store

June 28, 2007 - Orange County Weekly - Locals Only

June 13, 2007 - Reuters - McCartney's Starbucks album heats up U.S. charts

June 9, 2007 - Billboard - Commentary: Retail Recovery

May 9, 2007 - Columbia Free Times - High Fidelity

March 22, 2007 - NARM Awards - Almighty Retail Named NARM Related Supplier Finalist For Third Consecutive Year

March 16, 2007 - Chortler - Shout! Factory Has Revamped Its Website

March 9, 2007 - - Internet killed the record store?

March 4, 2007 - Sacramento Bee - New groove for Solomon

February 28, 2007 - USA Today - Exclusives aim to pull music fans into stores

February 28, 2007 - New York Newsday - Latin record shops thrive despite changes in music business

February 23, 2007 - Montpelier Bridge - Buch Spieler Sails On Despite a Music Industry Decline

November 20, 2006 - Austin 360 - In Austin, Niche Indies Rule

October 20, 2006 - Sacramento Bee - Tower brand could survive

October 15, 2006 - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Tables have turned on record stores

October 14, 2006 - Sacramento Bee - Small labels lose valuable ally in Tower

October 6, 2006 - Desert Sun - Record Alley remodels

September 27, 2006 - Music & Copyright - Niche Marketing of CD albums continues to rise in the US and Physical Sales overall decline

September 22, 2006 - - Indie stores confront a new era

September 19, 2006 - New York Newsday - 34 years, and that's not all, folks

August 18, 2006 - The Roanoke Times - Plan 9 Music puts new spin on 5 Record Exchange stores

August 3, 2006 - The Hollywood Reporter - Nervous music retailers face hazy digital future

July 16, 2006 - New York Times - The Graying of the Record Store

July 13, 2006 - Rolling Stone - The iTunes Holdouts

July 11, 2006 - Roanoke Times - Record store's "last dance"

July 5, 2006 - Port Townsend and Jefferson County Leader - Quimper Sound moves, expands to change with times

June 6, 2006 - Billboard - NARM Nominations Announced

May 10, 2006 - Detroit MetroTimes - Out of the Groove

March 18, 2006 - Billboard - Indies in a bind

January 16, 2006 - Los Angeles Business Journal - Slipped Discs

January 6, 2006 - Los Angeles Times - Indie record stores doing slow fade out

December 26, 2005 - Los Angeles Times - The Music Stops for Indie Shop

December 1, 2005 - Rolling Stone - Fall Sales Dry Up

October 13, 2005 - Desert Sun - Music snobs rejoice: Independent record stores still thrive in desert

September 12, 2005 - Salt Lake Tribune - Twilight for Starbound Records

August 18, 2005 - New York Post - Oldies are now singing a new tune - Music stores go digital

July 2005 - Rolling Stone - Record Biz Still Sinking

June 18, 2005 - Billboard - NARM Noms Announced

March 21, 2005 - CMJ - Hart of the Matter

February 16, 2005 - MSN - Genius Loves Company

October 12, 2004 - Rolling Stone - Wal-Mart wants $10 CDs

July 10, 2004 - Billboard - Almighty Institute To The Rescue

January 14, 2004 - Creative Loafing Charlotte - Manifest Destiny

December 29, 2003 - New York Times - on the rise of mass marketers

November 13, 2003 - Rolling Stone - Best Buy snags rights to band's new DVD

October 9, 2003 - USA Today - Best Buy wins sales rights to Rolling Stones DVD box set

October 6, 2003 - Reuters - Stones Paint It Black For Retailers

May 31, 2003 - Billboard - Retail Track

May 9, 2003 - Hits - Rerap

Almighty on TV:

•Almighty founder Clark Benson on ABC News

•Almighty founder Clark Benson on CNN

(Quicktime required for below files)

KTLA-TV Los Angeles - Low Bandwidth
KTLA-TV Los Angeles - High Bandwidth