Arts Desk

An Enduring Melody

Cherkis' shout-out to Melody Records yesterday got me thinking about the venerable Dupont Circle shop. If you've been inside, or even passed by it, you know that it's celebrating 30 years in business this summer.

In this era of iTunes, Limewire, and overall diminishing CD sales, that's no small feat...especially for an independent record store. When I moved to Washington in 2001, in the District alone there were at least six locally owned stores–DCCD, Yoshitoshi, and two locations each of Olsson's and Kemp Mill–that have closed in the years since. The entire life span of Revolution Records took place within that time. Even the Tower juggernaut has bitten the dust, and with the fire last week at the DJ Hut, its future is uncertain to say the least.

In contrast, Melody lives on and, indeed, thrives. It's the only independent record store in this town where I've never been the only customer in the store. And its selection gets better all the time: Melody has always been known for its impressive world music sections, but it's also constantly diversifying its rock, jazz, hip-hop, electronica, and even its folk sections.

Not that there aren't great and long-lived stores in the area–Joe's Record Paradise in Rockville and Orpheus Records in Clarendon immediately come to mind, among others–but within the city itself, where both the highest concentration of mom-and-pop shops and the highest turnover of those shops continues to be centered, it's pretty impressive to see Melody weathering 30 years of ups and downs in the economy, the neighborhood, and the record business as a whole.

How do they do it?

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