Old School Records seeks success on Desplaines Ave.

But owner says he may close by January as sales lag

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By Nona Tepper

Staff Reporter

After 14 years on Madison Street in downtown Forest Park, Old School Records moved in April, following a rent increase and disagreement with the landlord, said store owner Pete Gianakopoulos.

The store reopened in August at 413 Desplaines Ave., about a half a block south of Madison Street, next door to the Forest Park Post Office. And while business at the new location was brisk in late summer, sales fell off as fall arrived.

"Since we moved, we have half the business we would have done over there," Gianakopoulos said. 

In October, Old School pocketed $5,500 in revenue, down from $9,600 in October 2016, Gianakopoulos said.

"If sales don't pick up, I might have to consider packing it up," Gianakopoulos said. "I would probably just put it in storage and sell online, but I don't want to have to do that."

Gianakopoulos said he will shut Old School's doors in January if sales don't increase. The difference between the Madison Street and Desplaines Avenue stores is not size —each is approximately 1,000-square-feet and carries about 40,000 records and DVDs, Gianakopoulos said — but location. 

Customers would visit Old School on Madison Street after shopping or getting lunch.  

"Now we have to be more of a destination," Gianakopoulos said. 

The River Grove resident said he was forced to move Old School after rent reached $2,800 per month. Landlord Tom Flanagan said the space's final rent price was $2,300 monthly, but that Gianakopoulos had to pay a $100 late fee twice because he was behind on rent. 

Flanagan, of River Forest, owns several local properties, TEFCO construction and Competitive Door & Supply contractors. He said Old School received noise complaints from nearby tenants. 

"It got so bad I just told the tenants to call the police," he said. 

Gianakopoulos said only one tenant complained about Old School's music. 

Since Old School left Madison Street, Flanagan said he has upgraded the store's lighting, heating and air-conditioning system and replaced its old marble façade with limestone. He declined to say how much renovations cost. He also said he's received many inquiries from prospective renters. 

"There was a tobacco store that I was not interested in, somebody else wanted to put Asian food, soul food a rib place [there]," he said. "I don't think those are a good addition to that corner. I look for a business that generates foot traffic, adds to the overall aesthetic of the street." 

Flanagan said the smell of those restaurants would disturb tenants who live above the space. He said he would be open to leasing to other food service businesses.

Meanwhile, Gianakopoulos said he feels unsure about the future. Although vinyl album sales have been growing — up 10 percent year over year, according to the Nielsen Company consulting firm — Gianakopoulos said Old School faces increasing competition from online music streaming sites, as well as Whole Foods and Best Buy, which also stock vinyl. 

To compete, Gianakopoulos sells on Amazon.com and eBay. He said online sales bring in about $3,000 per month. Old School Records also differentiates itself by stocking used, specialty and hard-to-find classics. 

When the new store opened on Aug. 18, Gianakopoulos said it was jammed with old customers curious about the new space. But in September and October, business tailed off, he said. 

Gianakopoulos said he hopes Mini Record Store Day on Nov. 24, Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25, Christmas and other holidays help increase business. 

"I have records here that I've had here since the beginning or decades that I've put out from my own collection. It's history," Gianakopoulos said.

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