Business

No encore for Glass Onion

Glass Onion owner Jeff Crawford is closing after 17 years as an independent music outlet on Bainbridge. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Glass Onion owner Jeff Crawford is closing after 17 years as an independent music outlet on Bainbridge.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

If video killed the radio star, the Internet slayed the independent music retailer.

After 17 years in business, Glass Onion, the island’s only dedicated music store, will close its doors today.

For owner Jeff Crawford, it has been a long struggle to stay afloat in an age where more and more music is bought online.

“I lasted longer than most of my other friends who ran independent music stores,” Crawford said. “I’ve fought it as long as I could and now I’m closing up.”

Most independent, storefront music retailers have taken fatal hits from box-store retailers and a burgeoning Internet-based music market. According to the NPD Group, a company that monitors market trends, online retailer iTunes is the largest music supplier in the U.S. Amazon holds the fourth position nationally. Statistics from the Recording Industry Association of America, show the U.S. value of retail music sales dropped 20 percent between 2006 and 2007. The value for online music sales increased 43 percent in that same period.

Glass Onion has tried to compete with virtual stores. Crawford opened his own internet store – www.theglassonion.net – to make online purchases available to customers but it hasn’t been able to compete with industry giants.

“I’ll be selling off remaining inventory online,” Crawford said. “If the web store takes off, great, but I foresee having to get a real grown-up, adult job in the future.”

Glass Onion first opened its doors in the building that later housed the Winslow Way Cafe, before moving to the Winslow Green. A few years ago, the store moved into it’s current location across from Town and Country Market.

During the store’s stay in the Winslow Green, Crawford experienced some boom times before the internet took off.

“Once we moved (to Winslow Green) everything was onward and upward,” he said. “The Internet hadn’t taken over, people were still buying CDs and there wasn’t a replacement for record stores.

“Those were the good times. We lasted through two recessions, but the third one got us.”

As to where Crawford will buy his music now, he foresees having to make the trip to Seattle to support some of the independent stores that are still operating, including Sonic Boom Records, Silver Platters and Easy Street Records. Shopping at independent stores will always offer better service, with surprises that you can’t get online, he said.

“I am a browser by trade. When you browse there are always those gems at other shops you never knew existed. It could be what they are playing over the speakers and you have to ask what it is,” Crawford said.

It’s that same feeling of sharing and discovery that Crawford will miss when the store finally locks up for good.

“Finding a young kid who is just learning about music and throwing the classics at them and seeing their eyes light up when they first hear Hendrix, Miles Davis or the Beatles. I remember what that was like... I was my clientele when I was younger,” Crawford said.

Glass Onion will be holding one final sale today to celebrate it’s long run as Bainbridge’s music store. It will be “more like a wake than a funeral”, according to Crawford, who wants to celebrate the good times he’s had.

“This was the ultimate hobby for me and I turned my hobby into a career. It has been the best experience one could hope for,” he said. “I have been blessed with a clientele that understands buy-local and loves music... and an excellent staff,” he said.

Crawford, who graduated from Bainbridge High School in 1984, still plans to keep his roots on the island, holding out for another chance to bring back the Glass Onion.

“This is a great business if you don’t have to make money,” he said. “If I ever win the lottery I will open Glass Onion 2.0.”

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