- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 2, 2018

After 43 years in business in Silver Spring, Roadhouse Oldies closed this weekend to the sounds of James Brown as music hunters searched for rare vinyl and CDs one last time.

“I’m going to miss it because there’s no place that’s like it,” said Michael Douglas, a lifelong D.C. resident who has frequented the record shop for 40 years. “Anything you’re trying to find, you can find it here.”

Another customer — Silver Spring resident Doug Krentzlin, 63 — echoed the sentiment.

“Especially in terms of vinyl, they carried stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else,” said Mr. Krentzlin, who has shopped at Roadhouse for two decades. “This was always a great place to come and just look through the records and CDs.”

Roadhouse Oldies specialized in rare soul, doo-wop and oldies, and sold LPs, 45s, cassettes and CDs. Despite its small space at its Silver Spring Avenue location, it housed 2,500 records, according to owner Alan Lee.

“We will be wholesaling whatever is left,” Mr. Lee, 63, told The Washington Times.

For many, Roadhouse held more than just records. The store manager of 28 years, Warren “Scooter” Magruder, said the shop drew a community of music lovers.

“It’s like a barber shop or a beauty shop where you get familiar with the people who cut your hair,” said Mr. Magruder, 69, of Landover Hills. “The people in the community who love the music we love also fell in love with the people who worked here.”

He said that business had fallen after the shop relocated a few years ago and many patrons thought the shop had closed. The store also took a hit amid the rise in online purchases from iTunes and Amazon.

For Mr. Magruder, there will always be something special about analog music.

“When you have a record that skips in a certain place, you know that it’s your record. It’s a personal thing,” he said.

Mr. Magruder and Mr. Lee said they will continue their side jobs as oldies disc jockeys for WPFW 89.3 FM. For Mr. Lee, it’s a circle back to what led him to found the shop back in the 1970s, when he was playing ‘50s and ‘60s records on a weekly radio show in the District.

“People who liked that kind of music would call and say, ‘Hey that’s great music you’re playing. Where can we get it?’” Mr. Lee said. “And at the time they couldn’t.”

He opened Roadhouse Oldies in a bookstore, and a year later opened another Roadhouse Oldies in Baltimore.

Providing customers with hard-to-find records likely gave Roadhouse Oldies an edge as other music stores folded over the years — Tower Records in 1999, Olsen’s in 2002, Melody in 2012, Crooked Beat in 2016 and Kemp Mill Music in 2017.

But Roadhouse wasn’t immune to the challenges facing many brick-and-mortar stores now: Its sister store in Baltimore closed in 2015.

Mr. Lee, who lives in Howard County, says despite the pressure to cater to a broader audience with rap, hip-hop or pop, he’s kept the store’s inventory focused on its oldie roots.

“People asking for vinyl the last couple of years were invariably 30 years old and younger. And our core customer base is aging baby boomers who got rid of their turntables 10 years ago,” he said. “A young person came in, we were pretty sure they were going to ask for vinyl.”

Last Friday, the customers who gathered for the store’s send-off were the men in creaky leather jackets who had been browsing the shelves for decades, glad for the chance to talk about their favorite music at the register one more time.

“It was something.” Mr. Magruder said, looking around. “A lot of love here.”

“The music hopefully will live on,” said Mr. Lee. “They won’t be able to buy it at Roadhouse Oldies, but hopefully they’ll still be able to, and be willing, to listen to the music.”

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