Joe Royland: Death of a Music Salesman

Earlier this week, Transworld (the music and DVD retail company that owned Tape World, Record Town, Coconuts and Strawberries) closed its FYE location in the Maine Mall after 34 years of business. The big “SALE” signs, the pop culture toys and the “Ask Me About Pre-Ordering The Fast and the Furious 27 dvd” name tag buttons are all packed up for good.

The only thing that remains is the ghostly cries of a former customer, “Eighteen dollars for the new Metallica CD? What?!”

That FYE (For Your Entertainment) location in the Maine Mall was originally a Record Town upon its opening in 1983. Then it expanded to Record Town/Saturday Matinee from 1993-2007, which would give way to FYE until it’s close just hours ago.
Years ago, before Bull Moose covered so much ground, there were some individual mom and pop shops and the big chain stores. You went to the mom and pop shop for The Undertones, Venom and John Zorn records and when you wanted the new Madonna record or cassingle, you went to the mall stores.

Say what you will today, but mall locations back then were crucial. A happening place for younger folks. Yes, believe it or not, kiddos, back in the day the mall was... well, like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s is to you today. Social city. But with better parking spaces! As a kid, you’d walk through the mall and maybe grab some cookies at Mrs. Fields, laugh at the T-shirts with boobs on them at Spencer's gifts and pop into Record Town for the new Motley Crue tape. Malls gathered us. It was safe turf, a playground for teens.  

Today, life is so different. Yet through phases, cultures, sounds, influences; Record Town/FYE somehow stood its ground. Amazingly really. The rent to set up shop in the mall? Yikes! No wonder they had to charge an arm and a leg for that stuff. Yet through so much change, Transworld’s Maine stores have weathered the storm. Until now.

With the loss of FYE, comes the loss of one of the greatest locals ever in music retail. Joe Royland started working for Transworld in the mall in 1985 via Tape World. A couple years later, they sent him across the hall to Record Town. Just this week Royland gave up his locker after 32 years of commitment to the mall music customer. He was hope that those stores could still sell decent music and turn younger folks onto quality artists they’d listen to forever. Joe is a fan, in and out of his store. Matter of fact, I see Joe more at Bull Moose and record conventions than anywhere. FYE was lucky to have him. Professional defined. A high-quality human on either side of the counter.

On the eve of his final price scan, I caught up with Joe to hear about what that store meant to him. In doing so, possibly making mall store haters step back a bit and realize we can’t be picky about music stores anymore while they’re washing away quickly with the times.

Do you remember when you started working for Transworld?

October of 1985 I started out part time. I was friendly with the manager the time, Rick Vaznis, from shopping in the store a lot. One day I saw someone new working there and I said "Why didn't you tell me you were hiring?" He said, "You want to work here?" Funny thing, his son has been working for us a couple of years now. Great kid.

What could Transworld have done in your opinion to better business?

I think we did a lot of things right, but one easy answer could be pricing. Being in a mall, your pricing is offset by very high rent. Our online presence dragged a bit. The renaming of the brand could have maybe been handled better. For Your Entertainment was always shown and spoken of with the acronym FYE. The problem with that is that a lot of people have no idea what kind of a place a store named FYE is!

What kept the fire burning for you to work there all these years?

Mainly, my undying passion for music. It's something that's been a part of me all my life. I love being connected to music on as many levels as possible. In the pre-internet days, having the inside scoop on what was coming out was a big plus. I also like being around like-minded people who shared my passion. My direct boss and I have worked together for so long that we truly have become more like family.

Were they open to your input?

Very much so. I was very much responsible for a lot of the product we carried in not just our store, but for others in our region as well.

What are your greatest memories from your years at the store?

We get a lot of famous folks who have done in-store appearances or shopped there over the years. Alice Cooper always stops by to shop when he's in town. We even had Robert Plant in the store just a few or so years back.

Are you done with music/entertainment retail now?

I think so, or at least I hope so. If the right situation came along, I might think differently. For now, though, I truly think it's time for something else. Plus, I have a new baby at home that I'd like to be able to spend more quality time with than retail often allows. I'm looking forward to not necessarily having to work every weekend, holiday and things like Black Friday and Christmas.

As we approach Record Store Day and your store closing its doors; what's your take on the future of physical music?

I think that places that understand not only their business and customer base, but their reasons for being in that business to begin with will continue to thrive. Media will always be changing, but our desire to consume and collect it, I don't think that's ever going to go away. Record Store Day as a good thing. Anything that helps get people into music stores, and gets them to reconnect with that music community experience is great. I hope that the "Record/Music Store" as I've come to know and enjoy it in my lifetime is still going to be there in the future for my son to enjoy the experience of as much as I have.  

Follow Joe on Facebook at “Sit and Spin with Joe” for his music reviews and videos. 

Last modified onWednesday, 29 March 2017 14:13