The Sudden Departure of PJ's Used Records
A farewell event is planned.
From the September, 2018 issue
Marc and Jeff Taras thought PJ's Used Records had made it through the worst when it survived the CD and MP3 booms of the 1990s and 2000s. But in July the brothers learned their month-to-month lease was coming to an end. They've since sold their inventory and closed the thirty-seven-year-old second-story Packard shop.
Marc, who also works at WEMU, explains how it happened. "I came home from my job at the radio station to Jeff and Stephanie's [Jeff's wife] for a typical evening meal," he says. "And Jeff said, 'Well it's a good thing you're sitting down. We've lost our lease.'"
"We had survived that interval from 1990 to 2005, where running a record store was sort of the punch line of a joke," says Jeff, "and we had reentered the era where records were more popular and viable again. We seemed fairly secure in our operation."
But in late June their landlords, Dianne and Dennis Loy, made a tough decision and told the brothers they would need to vacate by December: "They had an offer for [leasing] the entirety of the building that was so grand that they also told the other tenant, who was their daughter [Pastry Peddler owner Kathryn Loy], that she had to be out," says Jeff. Loy has not yet announced a new location for her shop.
Things happened quickly after that. "We debated briefly the possibility of trying to find another Ann Arbor location, but you know that's a lot of work. We'd been operating on a handshake without a lease for many years, and surely someone having us move in as a new tenant would have wanted a multiyear lease ... We're both of an age where we can't guarantee our health and viability in perpetuity," says Marc.
They were surprised to find a buyer right away. Chicago-based music equipment retailer Reverb.com bought all of PJ's' 60,000 records and CDs for its online record marketplace. Negotiations began less than two
weeks after the Tarases first heard the news. "It seemed like the easiest thing was just going to be to walk away," says Marc, "although it's not so easy because most of our social circumstances revolved around the store."
PJ's was well known for its extensive collection, but particularly for its selection of hard-to-find jazz and classical records. "Every once in a while a touring musician from New York or L.A. would stop by and say, 'You can't get this stuff on the coast,'" says Jeff.
The Tarases say most of their communication with patrons was in person. "We started telling customers, 'If you wanna shop, shop now because this will be gone within a week!'" says Jeff. They both regret not being able to reach more customers before they closed. "We never even had an email [list] or a computer in-store," says Marc. "Sadly we never had a way of letting our loving and occasional now-out-of-towners [know]."
Neither is sure what he will do next. "Aside from the shocking loss of income and trying to figure out how I'm gonna piece together some kind of livelihood between now and an actual retirement (as opposed to a forced retirement) is how deeply I was going to miss hanging out with these people and hanging out with them in an environment of shared fascination," says Jeff.
To give PJ's a proper send-off, the brothers are inviting customers to a gathering at Forsythe Park (at the corner of Packard and White) on Sunday, September 16, 2-4 p.m.
[Originally published in September, 2018.]
On September 7, 2018, Steve Sarns wrote:
As a music lover who plays a vinyl record every night before falling to sleep at night, I will miss Jeff and Marc as men with a similar passion. They helped me discover music groups and expanded my joy of life through great music. Many of the records in my collection came from PJ Records along with stories that enriched my understanding of the musicians. Thank you for all you've given to those that opened the doors at your store.
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