April 20, 2005


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Saying good-bye to Hi Fi
Amherst record store closes its doors after a decade
By Richie Victorino  rvictorino@hippopress.com

For a decade, Mike Couturier has never had to leave his house before 11 a.m. to go to work — “I’d wake up and never have frost on my car. You can’t beat that,” he said.

Has hasn’t had to stay at the office more than six hours each day and hasn’t had a boss breathing down his neck.

Believe it or not, his life is about to get even easier.

Couturier owns Hi Fi Exchange in Amherst, a store dedicated to selling vinyl records, turntables and other not-so-modern music merchandise. But by the end of the month, Couturier will say good-bye to Hi Fi.

Couturier is taking his store online. But he’s not creating a Web site (like www.hifiexchange.com, which is a Web site completely different from Couturier’s store). Couturier is hitting up online auction sites, like eBay

“You can sell trash on eBay and people will buy it,” Couturier said.

Couturier won’t be selling trash. He’s selling the 60,000 records he has stored at his house, records he calls “the good stuff,” which have consumed his basement, garage and even his dining room.

“And I’m still married, can you believe that?” he said.

Couturier’s job will be to sell his records (not to mention anything else he can sell online) through a computer. From September through March he’ll focus on selling. During the summer months he’ll switch gears (he said there aren’t that many buyers during the summer months); he’ll become a yard-sale hunter, looking to buy stuff dirt cheap and turn it into a big sale on eBay. Yet again, he won’t have a boss, and he won’t have to battle frost on the car. The only thing he might have to battle is loneliness.

“I’ll probably have to drive around and talk to somebody or else I might go crazy,” Couturier said. He added that, because of his anticipated restlessness, he might open up a new store and start all over again.

People to people
Of everything Couturier might miss about running Hi Fi Exchange, the laid-back folks are who he’ll miss the most.

“Most people who are into records are pretty low-key,” he said. “There’s no road-rage there. I really like interacting with them.”

Couturier is just like his customers: laid-back.

The noon-to-6 p.m. schedule of Hi Fi suited him just fine; the lack of stress worked well with him. His ability to listen to the music he likes (anything from the ’70s: Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin etc.) while working made him smile.

Yet he’ll still have all of that at his home.

What he will lose is the people-to-people conversations. Couturier will be all but unknown in the eBay world. Only his regular customers will know his eBay handle.

While there are tons of benefits to selling records online (you can reach a worldwide audience; you have folks outbidding each other; you make your own schedule; you don’t pay rent for a store; you work from home), Couturier does acknowledge he’ll miss the folks who come in to his store each day.

Couturier also expresses sadness at the slow death of independent stores in general.

Big chains (like Wal-Mart, Best Buy) are killing small shops left and right.

Hi Fi was spared that kind of death, Couturier said, because everything Couturier sold is from decades ago.

“If I sold modern stuff, there’s no way I could compete,” he said.

Picking through the bones
Until the end of the month (maybe even sooner), Couturier will keep Hi Fi Exchange open. He’s selling albums dirt cheap (some for $1, some for $2).

“Some records are a little beat up, some are mint,” he said.

Regardless, people have the opportunity to get their hands on some great albums for as close to free as you can get. But by the end of the month, Hi Fi Exchange will be gone.

Comments? Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at hippoflea.com

Hi Fi Exchange is located at Heritage Place, Route 101A, Amherst, 595-0456.

The store has turntables, records, some CDs, styluses and more, all at discount prices.