These are dark days for Victoria music fans as another Canadian Gord ends his reign.
Gordie’s Music, the city’s source for vintage guitars and vinyl records, will close later this month after almost two decades in business. Originally from Saskatoon, Gordie Budd landed on the island in the late ’90s and opened his guitar shop in 1998, offering lessons, repairs and rentals. He says he always dreamed of owning a record store, starting from scratch with a small crate of vinyl in the corner.
As the popularity of analog saw a resurgence with a younger audience, Budd says the collection grew until one day he looked out to rows and rows of records and thought, “I own a record store.”
“True audiophiles never left vinyl,” he says, and true customers never left Budd. When the News stopped in to visit, an old regular walked through the door and called out, “I’ve got two questions! Is it true? And, who do we shoot first?”
Budd’s shop at 1519 Pandora Ave. isn’t overly big, but the first thing you notice is the empty wall on the left near the back where guitars and ukuleles used to hang for sale. Everything is 30 per cent off these days as Budd hopes to lighten the load he’ll haul away when the door locks one last time, Nov. 30.
“There’s many layers involved,” he says of the decision to close, some of which date back to the financial crisis of 2008. “We lost a third of our students then. It was an uphill climb after that.”
Three landlords – the last of which came with a management company that played middle man – steadily increased Budd’s rent while online giant Amazon was slowly plucking customers from the grip of independent businesses like his.
And as the “the big guys” like Long & McQuade and Tom Lee Music moved into town, it wasn’t just the rent that increased. Budd says insurance, hydro, bank and CRD fees – all those pesky responsibilities an online-based business like Amazon doesn’t encounter – played a role too.
The closure of Gordie’s Music comes just months after Larsen Music on Cook Street played their final note back in July.
“I’m going to go into what they call semi-retirement,” Budd says, adding that he may try his hand at buying and selling on a smaller scale, maybe even online.
That business model never appealed to him because he didn’t want to see the instruments leave Victoria.
When folks would ask about a return policy, he says he’d tell them to spend enough time with the instrument before you take it home, that way you know it’s the right purchase. Not exactly a concept transferable to online sales.
“That’s part of our downfall,” Budd says.
“I can’t pay the rent selling records, but I can’t sit here and be sour grapes.”
He jokes that he might just play Steely Dan’s “Everything Must Go” on repeat in the coming days as he continues to stock the shelves with “new” old records.
And when he makes that final sale, he says he’ll be okay, that he has a sense of peace about it.
“The only thing constant is change,” he shrugs.