After 29 years, Cuyahoga Heights record store Time Traveler is closing. It may be Northeast Ohio’s most visible independent music retailer; Rolling Stone regularly runs the shop’s Top 10 bestsellers on its charts page.
The shop has long been associated with the Rolling Stones and other U.K. bands. It carried a full catalog of groups like Van der Graaf Generator, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and other lesser known classic-rock bands. The well-stocked shelves made it a destination back when music fans didn’t mind paying $25 for an imported vinyl LP with two bonus tracks. However, foot traffic dwindled over a decade that saw the rise of downloads, eBay, MP3 players and a young generation that doesn’t even own CD players.
“It’s sad, but business has been horrible,” says owner Scott Shepard. “I couldn’t make it through another year like we did.”
Shepard reports losing money steadily over the past year. Business, he says, is down 75 percent from the mid-2000s. His last good year was 2001, and the store never recovered from the post-9/11 economic slump. The specialty shop outlasted Canton-area chain Quonset Hut and met a fate similar to beloved Cleveland-area store Chris’s Warped Records.
As the new year turned, Shepard marked his remaining 100,000 pieces of merchandise down 20 percent. Some of the items have been gathering dust for years. He wants to liquidate his inventory by March. Shepard says there is a “slight chance” he may move to a smaller location.
“I put all my money into inventory instead of putting it away,” adds Shepard, who graduated from Cuyahoga Falls High School in 1973.
Shepard’s shop — formerly called Titlewave — has been in six locations, and at its current (2615 State Rd.) since 1991. At its peak, the store had five other employees. Now it has two other workers — classic record-store clerks with knowledge, opinions, and picks for what to buy and why. These days, they’ll often sit an entire afternoon without a customer.
“Kids don’t know what they’re missing,” says Shepard. “All they want to do is download stuff. When the Internet thing started, I knew something would happen, but not this.” — D.X. Ferris