THE TOWER RECORDS LIQUIDATION
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Outside Tower Records on Keeaumoku Street near Ala Moana Center yesterday, Michael O'Brien, left, looked at a poster of Courtney Love. He and other customers were going through the boxes of posters offered for free outside the entrance to the store.
Pop culture, for a song
Isle customers take advantage as the music retailer starts its last sale
On the first day of the Tower Records' going-out-of-business sale, the chain's store on Keeaumoku Street had no signs advertising the chain's recently sealed fate or its sale prices.
When asked, a store clerk pulled a piece of scrap paper out of her pocket and read, "magazines 30 percent off, books 20 percent off, everything else 10 percent off."
Those prices will be good "until the company that bought us tells us what to do next," said one of the four employees working at the store, which features music CDs and DVDs.
The liquidating firm Great American Group bought the 89-store chain of music stores Friday at a court-supervised bankruptcy auction. The Woodland Hills, Calif., company agreed to pay about $134.3 million for Tower's inventory, money that will go to Tower's creditors.
Great American will eventually lay off some 3,000 Tower employees nationwide when it closes 89 stores in 20 states by the end of the year.
Hawaii's other Tower Records stores are in Aiea and at Kahala Mall.
Tower employees have been told not to talk to the media about the store's plans or their feelings about it, one employee at the Keeaumoku store said.
On the condition his name not be used, that employee said despite the fact he's worked for the company less than a year, "It's the best job I've ever had," mainly because of the camaraderie of co-workers. Some store employees have worked there since the 1980s, he said.
In its bankruptcy filing, Tower said it has been hurt by an industry-wide decline in music sales, music downloads online and competition from big-box stores such as Wal-Mart.
Russ Won of Honolulu said he started shopping at Tower Records "in the '70s in California." Though he buys most of his music CDs from Internet sellers now, he still stops by a Tower store "about once a month" to check things out.
Though Tower's prices are higher than big-box retailers, the selection is better, Won said.
As long as CD music quality is better than downloads, Won said he'll keep buying CDs. Yesterday he picked up a "No Shame" CD by the Big Island band Pepper and a DVD of the 1980s band The Police.
But he expects that eventually "technology will catch up," and high-quality music can be downloaded more quickly.
Several of the two-dozen shoppers in the Keeaumoku Tower store yesterday said they were there because they'd heard of the chain's sale.
"I'm looking for a deal, but 10 percent off isn't turning me on," Roger Vercruyse of Colorado Springs said as he browsed the classical section. "I think I'll go try the books and see what they've got."
Eleven-year-old Nick Velasquez heard about the sale while getting a haircut at a barber shop yesterday and convinced his mom, Debbi, to bring him over for a look.
"I guess people think, why should they buy it if they can download it from their computer?" Debbi Velasquez said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.