Plan 9 store closing

Brent Finnegan -- March 12th, 2009

The Plan 9 record store in the Kroger shopping center is closing. I found out about it Monday, and there’s a story in the DNR today.

I just talked with store manager Amy Rohrer. She’s been there long enough to see the store grow, expand, and in recent years, watched sales decline. She chalks it up to a changing music market; people are now getting much of their music online. Amy said;

[Harrisonburg] is losing a knowledgeable sales staff and people that really love music as well. It’s independently owned, and the most depressing fact is small businesses are just getting eaten up by bigger, more powerful companies … We prided ourselves on finding hard-to-find items, and having a pretty extensive back catalog of stuff for people to browse through. I don’t think that anybody [else] in town ever had the amount of country or bluegrass that we had, which is big for this area.

Amy said that the Lynchburg Plan 9 has already closed, and the Roanoke location is also in the process of shutting down. But she believes that the Charlottesville and Richmond locations will be around for years to come.

The Harrisonburg location announced a 20 percent off sale today. The store is expected to close its doors for good by the end of the month.

23 Responses to “Plan 9 store closing”

  1. Olivia says:

    This is sad news. I love Plan 9 and will miss it, but I knew this would happen sooner or later. Amy’s right, this would have happened with or without the recession. It’s the way the music industry is going. And I’ll be the first to admit that I probably came in as much to sell CDs as I did to buy, which probably didn’t help.

    So now I’ll be purchasing my CDs even more from amazon, which in one way is good because I can usually get anything I want at a good price, but sometimes you just want to browse through a store! And get a great deal on a used CD you’ve been looking for, etc.

    I’ll have to visit the Charlottesville store sometime; I’ve never been there before.

  2. seth says:

    i haven’t been by the remaining plan 9 in cville lately (the one that used to be on the corner is now a cvs) but it’s tucked away in one of the strip malls along 29 and i’d be surprised if it’s still there multiple years from now.

  3. I was sad when Town & Campus Records closed, but thought, “at least there’s still Plan 9.” But Olivia’s right: I haven’t been visiting as much in recent years, so I don’t have much room to lament. As much as I want to support independently-owned local businesses, I listen mostly to iTunes and Pandora these days.

    I think this closure is all part of a bigger picture: a massive shift to digital delivery. Newspapers and record stores are shutting down or shrinking because; if you can get it online for cheap or free, why would you buy a hard copy? Change is inevitable. But one thing I wonder/worry about is that digital delivery essentially eliminates jobs. Particularly local jobs. So, the economy is tanking at the same time these jobs are being made obsolete. Sort of scary.

  4. TM says:

    As someone who has yet to be able to drop the cash needed to get an iPod, and can’t wait for standard shipping, I did love Plan 9. There are just some CDs you can’t get at Target, but you could always count on Plan 9 having.
    I suppose once I do join the 21st century, I’ll get over it, but I still love the tangibility of a CD or Vinyl.
    Guess I’d better hurry up and blow the gift certificate I got for Valentine’s Day.
    Too bad Plan 9 is closing before Record Store Day 4/18.(recordstoreday.com).

  5. As a notorious and out-of-the-closet dinosaur (no cell phone! no iPod! no twitter!), but a music fan, I am also going to mourn this loss, and I have been a fairly regular customer, although the handwriting has been on the wall ever since Tower Records went down in the Washington area. Bah.

    There is a dark side to all this digital delivery: lower output of the basic input. So, downloading of music off the net, leading to lower payment of musicians leads to less music produced. Many of you do not care, but I have heard that starting next year, there will be no recording of new classical music by any record company except the European EMI, and who knows how long that will last?

    The same goes for all the people trumpeting the replacement of the MSM by the blogosphere. Now there are some people like Brent here who actually do real reporting that sometimes is not covered by the local MSM. But there is lots of stuff that only gets picked up by those gritty old newspaper reporters. Those crowing for the end of newspapers will find that we will be massively ignorant about all kinds of important things if they shut down.

  6. johan says:

    thanks, brent, for the post. i found out just last night talking w/ an employee who’s going on a tour & returning to unemployment.

    now as much as i agree w/ the inevitability of a changing music market, i think there are some reasons to be pissed about this development. the music industry hasn’t changed overnight. mega-labels obviously haven’t been able to adapt, but i strongly believe that local, indie stores should be able to move w/ these changes (see amoeba records in cali, sonic boom & easy street in seattle, probably even plan 9 in richmond).

    harrisonburg’s live music scene is near-electric w/ energy these days & people are listening to plenty of music…
    decentralized distribution models give artists new options…
    vinyl sales are actually on the rise (and are a treat to buy when you also get a download coupon in the package)…

    the death (?) of major labels should have been & continues to be a huge opportunity for local music businesses. it’s depressing that plan 9 couldn’t work out that model. i hope something like town & campus can return to town before the lack of a formal outlet nips our live music scene in the bud.

  7. Zack says:

    Sure, it is sad to see the last REAl record story in Harrisonburg go but lets be honest…the staff at Plan 9 in Harrisonburg were awful. They were rude, disinterested, smart asses who could care less about customer service or satisfaction. Any time I would have a question or ask about new records, most of them would roll their eyes and mumble things under their breath. Quite frankly, while the state of the music industry does carry some of the blame here, I believe that if those people knew how to treat their customers and build relationships than the store would not be closing.

  8. I guess that’s your experience, but that’s not been mine. Amy has always been helpful to me. The employees have changed many times over the years — there was one in particular that I thought was stuck up and bad at customer service — but, on the whole, I found them to be a knowledgeable staff that I could ask for recommendations, and they would give me suggestions that I liked.

  9. Ben says:

    I’ve had both good and bad customer service experiences at plan 9. I have at the grocery store too.

    No doubt this is part of a larger trend, with newspapers to follow. It’s been years since software manuals came as books and not on the installation media itself. The acceleration and ever-increasing need for toilet paper makes it obvious we can’t just keep cutting trees to print disposable media.

    HOWEVER, as someone who has spent many hours combing through racks of records and CD’s, and who likes to hold a book while he reads, I’m definitely going to have mixed feelings about all the implications of these trends, and will certainly miss the experience.

  10. TM says:

    Went by to use a gift certificate Sunday and everything new is pretty much cleaned out. Still a pretty sizeable used section, though. I might do one more sweep before the end of the month. One thing I remembered I’ll miss: the extras (free 7″, posters, singles, live albums, etc.) when you buy a new CD. I doubt I’d get the new Morrissey single on vinyl had I bought the CD at Target…

  11. ammc says:

    I’m sad to see them go. There was something nice about spending a Saturday morning sifting through and plucking something new off the racks. And I have to admit, ever since my ipod I haven’t been by as much either. Thanks for the news, so I can make it over before they close up.

  12. Andy Perrine says:

    I spent some of the happiest times of my life in record stores reading liner notes, talking to staff and discovering new sounds that the self-directed search-and-discover internet methods can’t replicate. Even though services such as Pandora are very innovative, unless you know to try something completely outside your already existing musical tastes, you’ll never hear it.

    My son and daughter will never know this and I am sad for that. Goodbye Plan 9.

  13. bill says:

    Opportunity knocks. Might be a good time to look for cheap retail space and open up another Town And Campus Records. New and used, especially vinyl, might also be a cool feature in an already existing venue.

  14. Zack says:

    Bill, I agree whole heartedly! Town & Campus Records was a one in a million store, and Tom was a record store Guru! I wish he would give it another go and seize the opportunity.

  15. Adam says:

    I was quite upset to hear about Plan 9 closing. I used to always shop at Town & Campus and when they closed I was glad there was a Plan 9.

    I do blame a lot of the closing due to how people listen to music these days. Top 40 pop has really taken over and it seems that people buy singles a lot more than they used to (digital or hard copy). Most people that I have talked to about this agree that they like one or two songs and don’t want to buy an entire album. They would prefer to just download a single song. A lot of pop artists these days also tend to put out albums quickly (sometimes multiple ones in a single year) and I have heard people say that they have only liked a couple of songs on the entire album.

    Most of the music that I like will never be heard on the radio and albums will not be sold at Target or Wal-Mart. It is sad that we are now being forced to buy online. I always enjoyed the variety of music you could find at Plan 9. You could always browse through a lot of different music and I always discovered things I didn’t know were released. Yes, I do still love having the CD in hand, I read the liner notes and lyrics, and alphabetize my CDs on a rack. I feel many people like the fast-food service of a quick download, but they don’t form a relationship with the music like we all did through the vinyl/cassette/CD days.

    People that are into blues, jazz, bluegrass, most alternative rock, local bands, and classical music will be hard-pressed to find anything in Target or Wal-Mart to buy.

    I wish Plan 9 could have waited a little longer to see how the closing of Circuit City could have helped their sales.

    To comment on the staff, I do see some people’s points. I always found that Amy seemed to be “inconvenienced” to help customers, but I found most of the other staff very helpful and would often give me suggestions of other things to consider based on what I was purchasing. It was also nice to be browsing through the store and to be exposed to music other than Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake.

    I do hope something eventually opens up in its place in the future.

  16. Olivia says:

    As far as being exposed to new and different music is concerned, I’ve discovered so much more than any store has ever offered through forums and blogs on the Internet. Forums and blogs are really the way indie listeners find their music now. Of course there is a lot of downloading, inevitably, but you can also choose to check out a band’s myspace or website, and discover unsigned or little-known bands from all over the world. Then there’s Pitchfork and numerous other indie music reviewing sites, last.fm, eMusic, and so on. So it’s still possible to discover the great diversity of music and be surprised by something new; in fact, it’s easier.

    A lot of music listeners who participate in forums and blogs are as well educated about music, if not more so, than the average record store employee (or are record store employees!) and usually happy to provide recommendations, suggestions, or new directions. The conversations often lead to the discovery of new bands, even before the music reviewing sites pick them up. My favorite forum is hosted on metacritic.com, but there are plenty of others.

    But as I said, I do love the physical record store. I went to Plan 9 for the final time last week – bought two CDs, plus I found a used DVD set of Planet Earth for only $28! I will miss great finds like that…

  17. Andy Perrine says:

    Agreed, Olivia. I am an avid user of internet music resources to discover new music. While I don’t like MySpace much in general, it can’t be beat for delving deeper into a newly discovered band’s music.

    And while I waxed nostalgic about the good old days of record stores, I can’t tell you how many times as a teenager (1970’s) I’d rush home to listen to the new album I saved up to buy only to discover that only one or two songs on the whole album were worth my hard-earned lawn mowing money. That never happens now with online listening.

    Although (here comes the soapbox), I am adamant about not downloading or burning anything for which I didn’t pay. It’s hypocritical to profess a love of music and then rip off the artists. Plus, with all the lip service paid to “sustainability” by younger generations, ripping off artists and then expecting good music to continue is loony. It’s not a sustainable arrangement to expect artists to create without any way to feed themselves.

    Sorry to sound like a fuddy duddy. But if I told you I love the new Animal Collective or that I was faculty advisor for Macrock restore my threadbare coolness?

  18. Josh says:

    I liked that I could purchase CDs from local bands at Plan 9.

    e.g.

    Some friends and I sent the MoneyPenny CD to friends living in Egypt:

    http://www.myspace.com/moneypennyrock (see profile photo)

  19. Plan 9 continues to die a slow death in Virginia. They just closed their Williamsburg store.

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