State Street isn't void of music, but come Jan. 1, will be a noticeable chink in the cultural armor with the departure of the shopping district's last full-line record store.
The Exclusive Co., one of eight stores of the Oshkosh-based company, said Monday that is looking for a new Madison home after 24 years at 508 State St.
Company officials said rising rent and the inability to negotiate a lease played a major role in the decision to relocate.
"We're doing well. We're doing fine," David Peters, manager of the State Street store said of the finances of the business. "We might stay Downtown, we might go east, we might go west. We just want to get the right location."
The move comes as more music lovers shun compact discs — the bread and butter of The Exclusive Co. and most other bricks-and-mortar music stores — in favor of downloading songs from legitimate online outlets such as iTunes or from illegal file-sharing sources.
State Street at one time was home to a number of full-line record stores including Rose Records, which closed in 1994, and Disc-Go-Round and Sam Goody, which closed in 2003. Sugar Shack Records also moved off State Street that year but reopened on Atwood Avenue.
After the departure of The Exclusive Co., only B-Side Records, 436 State St., and Ear Wax Records, at the corner of State and Gilman streets, will remain in the shopping district.
Ear Wax specializes in "metal, noise, psychobilly, drone, stoner, ambient, punk rock, etc.," according to its website, while B-Side, founded in 1982, is an independent that sells a wide range of genres with the exception of metal and classical. About 30 percent of its sales are on vinyl, according to owner Steve Manly.
"I don't think there's such a thing as a mainstream store anymore," Manly said Monday as he unpacked a shipment of vinyl that included the Grateful Dead, Johnny Cash and Wanda Jackson. "I can fill most music needs here."
B-Side's 500-square-foot store is about an eighth the size of The Exclusive Co., which sells a comprehensive range of music on CD and DVD, from Bach to Bieber. Its basement is home to discount CDs, vinyl and DVDs and includes a small performance stage.
"It was definitely what I was looking for," said Ethan Castongia, 22, a UW-Madison graduate student who moved to the city this summer to study geophysics. "I was pretty disappointed when I heard they were moving,"
The Exclusive Co. was founded in 1956 in Oshkosh and now has stores in the Fox Valley, Milwaukee area and in Janesville. Its store on Madison's Far West Side closed in 2009.
Stephanie Huff, general and marketing manager for the company, said that since 1988, the State Street store has served more than 2.5 million customers. In 1993, the store's front display window was shattered and three people were injured when a mob of Pearl Jam fans rushed the store for the midnight release of the band's "Vs." album. The store sold 800 copies in 40 minutes.
Mary Carbine, executive director of the Central Business Improvement District that includes State Street, said rents are negotiated on an individual basis. A survey of advertised rates in October showed an average of $36.50 per square foot per month. In May of 2010, the average rate was $35 per square foot.
"It's always sad when a store moves or leaves, but retail areas and retail itself is always evolving and changing," Carbine said.