Criminal Records, the 20-year-old independent record store located in Atlanta's Little Five Points neighborhood, might have to shut its doors in November.
Owner Eric Levin tells Billboard.biz that Criminal needs to make a $150,000 debt payment on November 1. Until then, Levin says he is open to ideas about raising money, bringing in new investors or otherwise keeping the store in business. He's staying open-minded about finding a solution.
"I really truly have no idea what's going to happen," he says, adding that the one certainty is that he is "no longer able to go forward losing money."
The Atlanta community immediately came to the store's aid. As news of the store's financial situation spread on Monday, Levin -- who is also the president of the Alliance of Independent Media Stores and has a long been a vocal booster for indie retail -- says he is being approached by the music community with ideas and offers of help. Some artists want to perform while others are offering merchandise to sell. The rock band Manchester Orchestra has offered a recording of an in-store performance at the store. And local artist Ronnie Land offered to make a T-shirt for the store to sell.
News quickly swept over the Internet, too. Past and current customers have been spreading news (via @criminalrecords) and lamenting the possibility of the store's demise. Pleas for support can be seen at Twitter using the hashtag #savecriminalrecords.
Although an independent store's financial troubles are though to be the result of digital music, Levin doesn't blame the usual suspects. "I don't think this has anything to do with digital downloading. This has everything to do with the economy." A 2008 store expansion tripled the size of the store, which turned out to be a poorly timed gamble. More recently, the store had a rough holiday season, and it suffered from a four-day closure in January due to icing -- lost revenue the store cannot get back.
In the meantime, Criminal is reminding people its end is not certain. "OK, y'all, please hold off on the RIPs and farewells," they wrote at the Criminal Records Twitter page. We're not dead and gone yet."
"It's up to the public and Atlanta now," says Levin. "We've done our part."