Phil Cutler loves his customers, is on great terms with his landlord and has a healthy business — and he’s shutting it all down.
Cutler’s Record Shop, the New Haven store his family has owned and operated since 1948, closes for good June 30, or earlier, if the store sells out of inventory.
“This is the time,” Cutler said Thursday afternoon. “It’s just the time.”
The shop has been a Broadway institution for decades. Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, the Everly Brothers and generations of local music fans have all browsed in Cutler’s, which has occupied three different storefronts over the years, including its current home, a 2,000-square-foot space at 25-27 Broadway. Cutler started working at the family’s business in 1971 when he was 13, and later dropped out of the University of Hartford to help his father, Jayson, run the place.
“It’s my whole life,” he said. “This store financially, emotionally and whatever else has done wonders for my family.”
The shop is on solid financial footing, Cutler says, and he’s tight enough with his landlord, Yale University, that he hasn’t had a lease in years. He’s certain Yale is charging him far less in rent than the space is probably worth.
So why close?
Two reasons. One is that he’s keen to get out before the ongoing upheaval in the music industry comes any closer. His concerns are real: Overall music sales increased in 2011 for the first time in seven years, but most of the growth was digital, according a year-end report by Nielsen SoundScan. Sales of compact discs continued their years-long decline, falling 5.7 percent to 223 million units.
Cutler’s also sells new and used vinyl, and though new-LP sales have been resurgent in recent years — 2.8 million units in 2011 — they represent too small a fraction of overall sales to make much difference.
“It hasn’t quite filled the gap the CD is leaving,” Cutler said.
Also, though, he’s been working at Cutler’s for 40 years, often seven days a week. After “80 million days in a row,” he says, he’s ready for a break.
“It’s exhausting,” Cutler said. He currently splits his time between the record store and Campus Customs, a screenprinting and embroidery business up the street, where he plans to be more involved once Cutler’s closes.
Customers in the store Thursday were saddened by the news that Cutler’s is closing.
“It’s touching me just being here,” said Ramon Delgado, 35, of Hamden, who started coming to Cutler’s with his parents as a kid. “One of the greatest things I loved about being here was you couldn’t go to Strawberry’s or Coconuts and find some of the stuff you could find here.”
Like other customers, Delgado praised the staff for being friendly as well as knowledgeable.
“Everybody knew their stuff, from hip-hop to classical to punk to heavy metal,” he said.
That’s what drew Susan Fowler back repeatedly over the past 30 years.
“It’s that personal touch,” said the North Haven resident, a classical and jazz fan who described herself as “middle aged.” “Everything has its time and its season, and to be part of that is a blessing.”
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