For Those About To (Buy) Rock: Four Fallen Record Stores Worth Remembering

[from The A.V. Club Chicago, with Kyle Ryan and David Wolinsky / April 16, 2010]

Record Store Day, back once again on Saturday, is a 24-hour party thrown by independent record stores across the country and supported by tons of bands that release special vinyl prints and CDs specifically for the day. Essentially, it’s a way of rewarding loyal patrons and reminding the disenfranchised that, yes, going to a record store and riffling through the stacks is fun. But still, RSD is bittersweet in 2010, as Ravenswood’s Metal Haven will be shutting down in the next month due to mounting financial woes. Before The A.V. Club runs up a huge bill around town, we thought it fitting to first pay homage to some of our favorite local record stores that have fallen in the line of duty.

Wax Trax! (2449 N. Lincoln Ave. and 1657 N. Damen Ave.)

Opened: 1978

Closed: 1996

Currently: Lincoln Park Institute for Oral, Facial, and Cosmetic Surgery (Lincoln Ave.); an apartment building (Damen)

The A.V. Club remembers: A record store that became a label that became an international tastemaker, Wax Trax! Records was Ground Zero for rise of industrial music in the ’80s and early ’90s. During its heyday, the retail store in Lincoln Park was Chicago’s only source for emerging underground artists from Europe and the UK, particularly post-punk and electronic music. The store’s cachet grew as the label did, with many members of Wax Trax’s roster working behind the counter. By the early ’90s, many of them had left the label, and Wax Trax! eventually filed for bankruptcy in 1992. The store moved to a much smaller space in Bucktown in 1993, a shell of its former self, before closing not long after Wax Trax! co-founder Jim Nash died in 1995.

Crow’s Nest Music (1 E. Jackson Blvd.) 

Opened: March 6, 1995

Closed: April 2, 2004

Currently: A Barnes & Noble-operated DePaul University bookstore

The A.V. Club Remembers: For young, decidedly sophisticated suburbanites taking the train downtown, Crow’s Nest’s central location and exhaustive selection formed the perfect marriage of big-city culture perusal and ease of location for the geographically challenged. Perhaps the Best Buy in Arlington Heights didn’t have a copy of the out-of-print Jim Matheos solo record, or the Circuit City in Vernon Hills didn’t stock the first-run DVD pressing of The Last Days Of Disco, but Crow’s Nest did, and the store was easy to find. And hey, you bought it in the city. How cool!

Dummy Room (1622 W. Grand Ave.)

Opened: Early ’90s

Closed: Mid-’90s

Currently: Condo building

The A.V. Club remembers: Grand and Ashland in 2010 remains pretty nondescript despite the rampant development in the area, but it was particularly desolate in the early ’90s when Joey Vindictive of Chicago pop-punk outfit The Vindictives opened this tiny record/video store—which made the store’s front mural of a pair of suspicious-looking eyes stick out even more. The Dummy Room specialized in punk and “really weird gore and Asian movies,” as punk agitator Mykel Board once described in an interview, making it a destination store for area punks. Regardless, after Vindictive developed serious health problems in the mid-’90s, it wasn’t long before the Dummy Room closed its doors.

Metal Haven (604 W. Belmont Ave.; later moved to 2003 W. Montrose Ave.)

Opened: July 12, 1999

Closed: Soon. Very soon.

The A.V. Club Remembers: Even for a sphere of fandom devoted to one-upmanship, Metal Haven’s clientele and merchandise demanded even the most advanced metalheads bring—and refine—their A-game. Not to say Metal Haven was a merciless den of condescension: The kid asking for something as obvious as an Iron Maiden record was safe, so long as he understood his position relative to the customer behind him being asked about his Infester T-shirt. To love metal in Metal Haven was a given, but to discover metal in Metal Haven was divine. Unholy, even.