Dennis Seid/Daily Journal
TUPELO – Barbara Bullard can’t cry.
If she could, she said she’d flood the business she’s managed for the past 35 years.
By the end of September, Tupelo’s last remaining record store, Album Alley, will close forever.
“It’s heart-breaking” said Bullard, who helped open the store on Varsity Drive in 1978 and managed it ever since.
The store began a “blowout” sale on Monday, and virtually everything inside, including inventory and fixtures, will be sold.
Well, not the Album Alley gas pump gum ball machine. That’s going to Bullard.
She and Johnny Holland, the store’s assistant manager, will oversee the final days of the place that sold countless thousands of CDs, records, cassettes and yes, 8-track-tapes.
“Truthfully, we knew it was coming, but we were thinking in the next two or three years,” Holland said.
The days when customers would eagerly line up for new releases are long gone. Back when people bought records – “vinyl” is the term these days – they would even camp out to get the latest offerings.
“This was a meeting place on Friday nights,” Bullard remembered.
And as a Ticketmaster outlet, the store sold tickets to concerts, NFL games and other events across the Southeast.
Holland and Bullard remember handing out more than 1,000 wristbands for Garth Brooks fans wanting to buy tickets for his Memphis concert in 1995.
“It was incredible,” Holland said.
Album Alley changed ownership a few times though the years, but Bullard was there from the beginning. Holland has been there 30 years.
But big-box stores got into the music-selling business, then came downloading music off the Internet. Record stores like Musicland, Camelot Music, fye, Virgin and Tower slowly but surely disappeared.
Album Alley held out as long as it could. It was once a part of the popular Be-Bop Record Shop chain, which closed its last store in Jackson 2011.
Album Alley got a silent partner in Texas that bought the business and kept it afloat. But in the end, it was a business decision to close the store.
“Well, it’s still up for sale if anybody wants it,” Bullard said. “It’s not too late.”
Barring a minor miracle, Bullard and Holland will pack up three decades’ worth of memories and look for something else to do.
“I’m looking to stay in some form of the entertainment business,” Holland said.
Bullard, though, isn’t sure what’s next.
“This is all I’ve ever known,” she said. “I’ve been doing this since I was 13.”
Customers and former employees who heard the news Monday kept the store’s phone ringing. And no doubt many more will drop by before Sept. 30.
“I’d like to say ‘thanks’ to everyone over the years,’” Bullard said. “It was fun.”