ead Letter Office is a column of letters written by Todd Hutlock to a friend named Jimmy, who may or may not exist. The column details real-life experiences regarding work, life, and how Hutlock's obsession with music runs them both.
Don’t know if you heard or not, but news has officially come down recently that My Generation, the long-standing and best record store on Cleveland’s West Side is going out of business after 21 years. I know you’ve been there before, but I wasn’t sure if you’d remember it. I can describe it for you in more detail if you are having a hard time remembering which store it was on your whirlwind tour of the region (I know we hit a few places…)
Anyway, I guess they were trying to sell the inventory to a new owner for a while with the idea that person would keep things going pretty much as-is—that is, good indie stock but also good prices on majors, imports, keeping the same staff on, etc.—but when the offers didn’t start pouring in, and the lease up soon, they have now decided to just sell everything out at a discount until it is gone or they close, whichever comes first. I suppose there’s always a chance that once the inventory sells down a bit, someone might dive in and buy it at a reduced price, but I’m not holding my breath. Sadly, it looks like I’ll be doing a lot more Internet record shopping than I care to. Unfortunately, my own bid to buy the place fell a few hundred thousand dollars short (and yes, I really was thinking about it.)
On the surface, I guess I’ll miss the store as a retail entity, you know? The store was always clean and fairly neat and had deep catalog stock and new releases on time and foreign magazines and DVDs and imports and box sets and more—it was all there, and at really decent prices for the most part. And it’s going to suck now that Cleveland doesn’t have such a store, left to its Borders or Bent Crayons, both of which have serious reasons that keep me from shopping at them regularly. No, they don’t make record stores like My Generation any more—mostly because they all tend to get put out of business by corporate chain stores. But that’s another rant for another day, and one that I’m sure you’ve heard before.
No, what I’m really going to miss about this place is the memories. This was, for most of my adult life, my record store of choice. I have been going there since high school, since they were at their old location on Dover Center Road next to the British Butcher shop. As someone whose life is measured against the party I was at when I first heard Mudhoney or who I was having sex with when I first heard the Sugarcubes or the woman I think of most when I hear Orange Juice, losing my lifelong record shop is a far more emotional experience than it ought to be. After all, I have been giving them money all of these years, haven’t I? It’s not like I haven’t given them fair trade for all of the memories. And still, I feel like I ultimately got the better end of this deal—after all, I’m not closing my doors yet, am I?
And so my mind has returned over these last few weeks to those times when my high school bandmates and I would literally spend three or four hours at a time going through the racks and arguing over who would get that last copy of the “What The World Is Waiting For” CD single at the height of Madchester mania, and whether the one that had “Fools Gold” listed on the cover was more or less rare, even though it was technically a double-A side anyway; stupid things like when I insisted on buying the Creation UK version of the first House Of Love CD for 22 bucks as opposed to the American Relativity copy for only 12; quaint John Hughes-like memories of trying to get Elizabeth, the cute girl who went to Magnificat that we all had a crush on, to agree to go out for coffee after work and being politely but definitively shot down every single time like clockwork; that Smog 7” that ended up having a massive crack in it and I’ve still never replaced. It’s all just come flooding back and I feel like I am losing the best friend I have ever had. In a way, I guess I am (no offense, Jimmy).
So there will be other record stores, and probably bigger and better ones at that, but there’s something about that first place you really fell in love with music—just like with people—that you never forget. For me, it was right smack in the middle of My Generation, and for that wonderful lifelong relationship that it helped to flourish, I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
And just as it was after that first big painful break-up, things will never be the same now.
Your man in the Midwest,