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Record Roundup’s last rodeo

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Bob Schecker still remembers the scene at Record Roundup that night in September 1991.

The independently-owned Albuquerque music store was celebrating two new Guns N’ Roses albums with a midnight release party. A parking lot spotlight illuminated the hundreds of customers who swarmed to buy the twin compact discs, “Use Your Illusion I” and “Use Your Illusion II.”

If that was a sign of the times, so was the scene at Record Roundup on a recent weekday afternoon.

The store at 2529 San Mateo NE went without a customer for at least 30 minutes and was quiet save for the reminiscing by Schecker, his manager and only employee, Mike, and the Echo and the Bunnymen song coming through the speakers.

In the iTunes age, Record Roundup has survived longer than most, but it too is on its way out. After a bad 2012 and worse 2013, Schecker said the store – which he says has more than 50 years of history in Albuquerque – will close for good next month.

Business “has just has dropped off with … the Internet, the downloading,” Schecker said.

Despite the name, Record Roundup is a CD store. Unlike other local music shops that deal in vinyl, Schecker’s store trades almost entirely in new and used compact discs, including the latest releases from artists like Robin Thicke. It’s a tough industry. Physical music sales have fallen 13 percent each of the past two years, according to Nielsen Company/Billboard figures.

“I don’t blame the economy,” Schecker said. “I just blame the technology.”

Schecker traces the store’s roots back to at least the 1950s when it operated on Central as The Record Shop. It changed name (Record Roundup) and location (San Mateo/Candelaria) in the 1960s, he said.

Schecker – once a sales rep for a wholesale music distributor – went to work at Record Roundup in 1967. He bought the store in 1976, when cassette tapes, 8-tracks and records ruled the inventory. He moved the store to the Menaul/San Mateo intersection – where it remains – in 1991.

With CDs growing in popularity, “it was just fantastic business in the early ’90s – incredible business,” he said.

Schecker’s shop soon became known for rap and heavy metal, two genres that still account for more than half the stock. It’s what customers wanted, although it’s worth noting that while the 78-year-old Schecker admits to liking Lil Wayne and Metallica, his personal preference has always been country.

The store enjoyed its best years between 1995 and 2005 but hasn’t been able to woo a new generation of customers.

“Many people come in here and say ‘People still buy CDs?’” lamented Mike, the longtime manager.

Schecker said the last two years have been especially difficult, and he knew it was time to call it quits. He said he has no second thoughts but has heard from many disappointed customers.

“The response is saying ‘Oh, gee, I’m so sorry. This is one of my favorite stores. I’m really sorry to see you go,’” Schecker said.

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