Monday, June 25, 2012

End of an Era: Cutler's Records in 64 Years

The Original Cutler's Sign from 1953 (1999)
The phonograph might have been invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, but the record store was invented in 1948. Back then, people needed time to develop ideas before they become publicly available. The phonograph record player became a consumer item after years of perfecting the technology. In the early years, the only kind of music available was the kind of stuff you'd expect to hear at Woolsey Hall. Music wasn't the same as it is today. Hip Hop had not been invented. Hardly; the blues were still in full swing. So were swing bands, incidentally; Cutler's Records began at a time when music first became a popular thing to own.

Vinyl, also known as PVC, had been invented in 1872, five years before the phonograph. It wasn't until 1926 when useful vinyl had been developed.

Three years after the end of World War II, Americans Nat Cutler and Sam Goody opened a shop at the location of 44 Broadway. Manson Whitlock fixed typewriters around the corner. He never retired. You could say that the concept of the Modern Record Store began, but it didn't end, with Cutler's.

Cutlers Records, the day before closing
Records only became popular when record stores began to exist. Vinyl was rationed by the government during the war, and the recording industry had to wait until World War II was over to continue producing records. It was just 3 years after the war ended when Cutler's Records opened. There are only 3 days until Nat's grandson closes the store for good, so why don't you walk on by and see what's inside? Maybe make a video about it. There's a Pac Man game in the back, man! You should play it and see the Hi Scores, or pick through the pile of remaining stuff for old music from the 90's or something. It's 40% off at the moment.

Cutler's at the 33 Broadway Location (1999)
In 1953, Cutler's relocated from where it began five years before. The new spot was just a few doors down, the "best-known location" 33 Broadway. This is where I discovered it, in 1996. It was an old building. The floors squeaked, and it was carpeted. There was a separate room with the DJ stuff. Mark Winters stood behind a desk where there were two turntables, surrounded by records. If you wanted to listen to something, you'd hand him the item and he'd play it for you. He'd even play it in combination with something else at the same time. Casey was another great worker, who left years ago. Bob was the guy that would tell you what headphones to get, or how to make your stereo sound better. Kyle could recommend anything to you with psychic accuracy. The record store was a place where people went, not just to buy music, but to interact with one another. And music wasn't just something to listen to, it was something to own and get into. Perhaps something to get lost in, or find yourself in. It was also something to play, and many people dreamed of walking into a record store, finding their CD on the shelf.

"I used to bring my CD's into the store and they would sell them in the Local Music section. There were many local artists who could just bring their material into the store, and the record store would sell the item on consignment."

Broadway Redevelopment, November 1999
In 1999, under Broadway Redevelopment, several buildings were renovated to make room for Urban Outfitters and J Crew. As you can see from the sign, it's clear that the building would house an Urban Outfitters, even before it was constructed. During that week, Cutlers had to remove its lighted sign. Behind the sign was an old, gray sign that had been covered up by the lighted one. (Do you have a picture of it?). The record store moved to a smaller location, also due to fewer sales because of file sharing. To make up for their losses, the store sold edible band-aids and guitar strings until 2012, when even the owner lost interest in the place.

Current Places to Buy Music:
You can still buy vinyl records now at Urban Outfitters. They have a decent collection. Vinyl records and other forms of music are available at Bru Cafe on Orange Street, as well as at Project Storefronts. You can also take a road trip* to Brooklyn-In-A-Day, a video about taking the MTA from Union Station to a neighborhood in New York City, later this summer. Perhaps we'll catch up with an old Koffee Too? barista, or see if any famous rockers are around.

Location of Local Record Stores
The Actual Cutlers History Page

Cutler's Records at 33 Broadway in 1999. This was where DJ Remarkable was in his element. Photo: Ian o#

What were your experiences at Cutler's? Share a story about it.