Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Footlight Filled

After several years of lying empty, the former space of a classic record shop has been filled--and it's not with another record shop.

photo: elizabethnewyork

Footlight Records on E. 12th Street
was one of my favorites. I went for CDs by obscure ukulele players, for crooners and torch singers, and for soundtracks. Mostly, I liked the place for its atmosphere.

New York magazine described it well: "On a typical Sunday at Footlight Records, you’ll see hipsters snatching up Italian lounge CDs, hip-hop artists trolling for new beats among the vinyl movie soundtracks, seniors browsing through the Broadway cast recordings, a Liza impersonator scoring Cabaret on DVD."

New York Magazine, 1987

Opened in 1978, after three decades in business, Footlight closed its doors in 2005. At the time, owner Ron Saja told Backstage, "right now, the industry sucks... there aren't a lot of collectors like years ago. You know, it used to be you went to your college dance and someone was spinning 45s. Now there's a computer with 10,000 songs on it—what's to get excited about? And anyway, most new collectors want the same thing: 20 different languages of 'The Phantom of the Opera,' 'Les Miz,' and 'Rent.'"

Footlight then became an online-only business. You can still order through their website, which also went through a crisis, was nearly lost, and then saved.

But the point of this post is that since 2005, the former Footlight space on E. 12th has been gutted, renovated, and sitting empty. Now they've got a new tenant. And it's the same old story: A decades-old, essential New York place vanishes, taking its unique personality with it, and the space gets filled by...a real estate agency.

See Also:
A great bookshop becomes a body waxing salon.


Anonymous said...

Oh how mundane. And SO typical of the New York City that I used to be proud to be a native of.

JAZ said...

An independently owned record store is now real estate office - a perfect commentary on gentrification if I've ever seen one.

Should be exciting to work there too - 'yes Parker, the neighborhood is perfect for you - the gritty reputation to brag to your friends with back in Wisconsin, yet safe enough to sit on the stoop with your MacBook while you apply for internships. You have a Starbucks, 3 Banks, and a Dunkin Donuts on the block (leans in to whisper) 'there is even word that an artisinal cupcake shop is going to push out that eyesore diner that hasn't been renovated since the 70s'. Now let's get daddy on the phone, so we can get this down payment out of the way.'

Jeremiah Moss said...

JAZ, you nailed it.

EV Grieve said...

Of course.

BrooksNYC said...

I'm already in a black funk, and today's entry makes me want to beat myself over the head with a shovel.

On a lighter note, I recently discovered Cliff Edwards (a.k.a. "Ukulele Ike", a.k.a. the voice of Jiminy Cricket) on Rich Conaty's "Big Broadcast" on WFUV.

Sunday, 8:00 pm to midnight, 90.7 FM

Audio stream:

The show is all Depression-era music, which I find cheering in these glum times.

Anonymous said...

Yes Jaz you nailed it.

What's so aggravating about this situation and all those similar to it is this: NYC had really been an unique entity unto itself and had been so for decades. People all over the world knew that if you wanted to live in a freaky, weird, mysterious place New York City was the place to go. What we've seen in the last decade is the end of that notion. We saw the end of a very long and very interesting cycle. It's amazing to me that we are the ones to unfortunately witness the end of something that lasted for, I don't know...a century or more? And at one time looked as if it would never change. How the HELL did that happen? How did New York City, the biggest bad-ass town in the world, the town that walked it like it talked it, turn into such a BIG FUCKING PUSSY?! And don't even get me started on what young people now come to New York for. Young people used to come to New York for loud-ass underground rock music played in dark holes in the wall. Now what do they come for? CUPCAKES AND LAME FIRST DATES AT SOME SWANK ASS RESTAURANTS? Give me a fucking break!!!! New York used to be a place that had alot to offer and was worth dealing with the drawbacks of quality of life. Now it's just become a trendy place that's a pain in the ass to live in.

Marty Wombacher said...

Ecch. Sad that the youth of today spend their time and buy music in today's record store, iTunes. I never dreamed that record stores would be extinct, but soon they will.

Jeremiah Moss said...

sorry to over-funk your day, Brooks. listen to some Ukulele Ike, he'll cheer you up. and thanks for the link.

Mitch Broder said...

Thanks for letting me know, Jeremiah. That's something I don't want to see for myself.

I loved Footlight. It did indeed have atmosphere. I'm glad we have survivors like House of Oldies and Strider, but Footlight never felt like a "collectible" record shop; it felt like a record shop. You could take your time and flip through all those seductive LPs, and imagine that "singer" still meant Peggy Lee.

The guys there knew their music and loved it as much as you did. (Try finding that at Best Buy.) I was crushed when I found that the place was gone. I have not recovered.

Caleo said...

Re Anon. 10:56- There are many, many reasons for the changes that have taken place, and it's all been discussed here before.
For me, it seemed to start once Giuliani had "cleaned up" the city. Now, I'm not going to glamorize the level of crime that made NYC infamous the world over, but that pervasive sense of menace and decay is what kept the suburban masses OUT.
Once the streets and parks and squats had been effectively sanitized, well, all bets were off. The developers swarmed in, and word got out that it was safe to let your kids live in the city.
Once that ball got rolling in the very late 90's, the momentum could not be stopped, leading us to what we see today.
It is obviously more complex than that, but it's my two cents anyway.

Anonymous said...

The homogenization of NYC has occurred in direct correlation to the weakening of our rent laws! With the current laws having expired yesterday, we are at a crucial point in this city. Do we finally make some noise or do we simply roll over, close our eyes and think of England?

Marc said...

What I don't get about Footlights is the greed of the landlords. And I may be wrong about this.. but Footlights seemed like it was doing okay until it closed suddenly when the landlord raised the rent a lot. THen it was empty for years. Now how does that make sense? The landlord raises the rent so the tenant is forced out and then sits with an empty space for years. God knows it's an off beat location.It's hardly prime. WTF was the landlord thinking? Footlights could still be there, with all of the used CD's and obscure titles.. instead of being replaced by another web site with monotonous lists.. It was a cool neighborhood joint, where you could sometimes meet other showtune junkies and other interesting New Yorkers. Damn shame