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Final Spin for Long-Playing Store

Music fans will no longer be able to find their vinyl groove at Aron's, which is closing after 40 years -- a victim of fads and finances.

November 19, 2005|Daniel Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

For 16 years, John Wyatt has come to Aron's Records on Hollywood's Highland Avenue to get his fix of obscure, cheap vinyl records. On Friday, he made one of his last purchases: $206.23 for what he estimated to be 100 LPs from rock to reggae to hip-hop, all packed into several black plastic bags.

Wyatt forked over his cash with a hint of remorse, but not because of the amount. Aron's Records, a music lover's staple since 1965, is closing.

"For me and my friends, it's definitely sad when a record store closes. There's just fewer and fewer places that sell vinyl," said Wyatt, a 32-year-old DJ who lives in Mount Washington. "I never switched over to CDs. I like the sound of vinyl. Believe it or not, there's thousands of records you can't get on CD."

Aron's owner, Jesse Klempner, announced the closure to his employees Wednesday. Word spread quickly among hard-core music fans that Aron's was going out of business, another victim of the rising costs of maintaining a small music store and the growing popularity of pirated and downloaded music.

"It's just been rough for several years," Klempner said Friday, with "STORE CLOSING" and "EVERYTHING MUST GO" signs hanging overhead. "The labels are no longer supporting independent stores. [Listeners] are either downloading or copying from friends.... There's a lot of good music coming out; they're just not buying it, and people are on their iPods and MP3s."

Riverside resident Philicia Devereaux, 35, came into the store with a $100 limit. She was barely through the first half of the alphabetical listings in the Rock and Soul CD section, and her arms were already full: Patti LaBelle, Fantasia, Will Downing. "It's so sad," said the special-events promoter. "I come to Aron's for things I can't find anywhere else, for anything I don't think is in my collection."

She added wistfully: "It's the Internet. Film is next."

Klempner, a folk music fan who confesses a deep affection for the rock band the Kinks, has worked at Aron's since it was on Melrose Avenue near Fairfax High School. He has managed the store for almost 30 years, and he became owner in 1992, he said.

"We've had Madonna in here, the Kinks, Prince came in once with his bodyguard, [Quentin] Tarantino is a regular person here," he said, referring to the director of "Pulp Fiction" and the "Kill Bill" movies.

The store is decorated with film and classic rock posters. Delicate, vintage vinyl records line the walls. Punk rock stickers and rare collectors' box sets are for sale. The customers include aging rockers with white hair, hip-hoppers in backward caps and Rasta men in dreadlocks.

Aron's will officially close "when it's empty," Klempner said.

The closure spells uncertainty for Klempner's roughly 30 employees, several of whom said Friday that working at Aron's is more than a job; it's practically a tribe of music lovers. In the same breath, several of them took a swipe at Amoeba Music, the giant record store on Sunset Boulevard that they blame for taking some of their customers.

"It's a scene. It's big, chaotic," said Ali Hyman, 18, whose job at Aron's was her first. "Everybody here is awesome."

Co-worker Albert Gomez, 28, offered a forceful critique of the competition: "We brought everybody the Ramones, Iggy Pop, the classic rock, the classic blues.... I was taught music here.... How can you forget your roots? Your background?"

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