It has the things you want when you go into a record shop. Slight organization, newer and older stuff, below shelf stuff, a musty intake, various formats and all of it un-kept in the highest degree.
Wedged tightly into the old Main Street shops in downtown Biddeford is Music Plus, owned for 27 years by Henry Vigue, the last 17 years at 140 Main Street in Biddeford.
I heard from another record store owner earlier this year that Henry was contemplating closing. He was tired, and the reality of the decline in music sales had gotten to him. Eventually, some Biddo-area friends confirmed the news — Music Plus would be closing. The signs were up on the windows. The 10 percent off sale had begun. Upon hearing the news, I made a mad dash to the store. Not really to take advantage of the discount (even though I did, of course), but I felt I needed to be there at least once more. Something extra was calling me to Henry’s shop.
Although I didn’t grow up in Biddeford, a closing record store still hits me. That shop is any shop. It’s one less place I can find these things that fill my life and my home. I’ve only known of Music Plus for a few years, but in that short time, I’ve made a point to re-visit a few times a year.
I made my way to Henry’s shop last week with a heavy heart. He was nestled in the cluttered back room on his computer most likely posting new items on his eBay store, which will continue his business after he closes the doors to his brick-and-mortar shop.
Upon entry, the store looks the same. (It always does, really.) Nothing is ever obvious or sticking out waiting to be bought. That’s just fine, because it’s under the covers where you must always look. Lazy window-shopping isn’t the way of true record digging. Some Cream and Byrds on the stereo as the creaking of the shelves and floor adds to the choir.
I had a hard time going through the “A” section, as it seemed to be picked clean. Nothing but skin and bones left. I’m already well stocked in ABC and AC/DC anyways. As I started to flip into “B,” with Bowie, Beatle and Black Flag optimism, I hear from the back room. “How goes it?” Henry started walking my way, and all of a sudden my search became less important.
“So that it, huh,” I asked Henry. “Yup, it’s time,” he replied. His realization affirms for me that we’re probably going to be hearing more of this in the years to come, locally. (I have to think Mike in Sanford, Bob in Waterville and Bob in Portland are getting a bit tired as well. Surely, swiping for your music has hit them where it hurts too.)
Henry went on to say he was actually doing great with sales online and that’s helping to weaken the blow of closing the store. He remembered times when he could sell 400/500/600 singles in one day of a hit song. He cherished the times when his family was in the shop with him — working, learning and having fun.
We talked about the good and the bad of today’s music world and pinpointed when things started to go wrong for everyone. We talked about vinyl’s resurgence and its staying power. As we chatted, various types of people came in there for various types of records, DVDs and CDs. Adults, adults with kids, hipsters, and friends of Henry’s scattered around the shop.
Derek Mills, drummer for local band Gunther Brown, popped by while I was there. A frequent shopper, Mills was also bummed about the news. He stopped by to find something one last time. “I was always able to come across a couple of random finds,” reminisced Mills. “Downtown Biddeford is growing, which is great, but we’re also losing the staples that drew some of us locals there in the first place.” We shared our misery for Henry’s closing. (We also talked some Celtics, ‘cause that’s something else I do.) Derek eventually made his way out of the store with a copy of “Thriller” on wax, some cassettes and a vintage Cheap Trick shirt.
As the store got busier, I gave Henry his space and ventured towards the black hole of 45's he keeps in the back. He’s got a nice pool of singles. I made my own stack of about 50 to bring home. That jukebox I eventually buy someday will be sensationally filled!
A couple hours went by, and the cakey build-up on my fingers from the must and dust of the old albums was getting to me. I shuffled through soundtracks, easy listening, the posters, books, CDs, one-dollar CDs, his Beatles 45’s and the entire vinyl section A-Z. I almost even pulled the trigger on an autographed Dick Curless 45, but it was made out to someone named Richard I think. Or Reginald. Regina maybe.
Henry sells album sleeves behind the counter so I asked for a couple dozen of those. I found myself wanting to pick up a few more things. Not necessarily because I needed them, but because I wanted to give back. Back to Henry, back to this shop which again to me, was any shop.
Record stores have done so much for me in life. They've been a place to find my music, to find new music and to learn about music. A place to meet new friends. A place to see culture and style, attitude and personality. A place to find some sense of calm. I’m off the grid, off the radar and out to lunch there. I’m in my element. For that, I feel grateful to record stores. I’m not foolish enough to overlook the business done there, but to me, it’s beyond business.
The aisles you walk down are filled with potential. The potential on those shelves can inspire you, comfort you, empower you, motivate you, sedate you. It can create love or set the table for it. It can be recycled for future music use made by other musicians. It can drive someone to pen and paper, guitar or piano, to make their own piece of potential. Record stores are life. That’s not a t-shirt slogan. That’s something I truly believe.
Although the rental life in Music Plus is going soon (you have until the end of May to visit Music Plus), what it’s given me and anyone else reading this who’s bought music from there will never go away. The music is with us and in us now. It moves on with us. That being said, record stores will never truly go away. They’re part of our lives. Much more than whatever a $1.29 click gives us.
Music Plus | 140 Main St., Biddeford | www.henrymusicplus.com