By Tom Holmes
The Old School Records has started a crowd sourced funding campaign, in an effort to keep the "fixture record store in Forest Park" afloat, said owner Peter Gianakopoulos, who started the GoFundMe.
On July 13, Gianakopoulos said he was eight days late paying his rent for this month, and that he still owed payments from the month before. He said that if he is unable to "pay through August" he will have to close the business.
"I need a minimum of $5K to cover my late taxes and my rents. Extra funding could help me avoid home foreclosure as well," Gianakopoulos said.
Gianakopoulos said that he is not looking for a long-term subsidy. If he pays off the approximately $14,000 he holds in loans by April 2020, he said he will be debt-free.
"I think people get the sense that all small business owners are well off or even wealthy," Gianakopoulos said. "I started this business with my family lending me about $10,000. If I can pay off my debts, by April of 2020 I'll be back to normal—month to month, teetering like most small businesses."
A series of events precipitated the financial crisis for the secondhand music and movie store.
Gianakopoulos and his wife Jodi opened Old School Records in May 2003 in a storefront on Madison Street.
"During the first three years, business was great, but the economy slumped in 2006 and we did too," Gianakopoulos said.
Increasing Old School Records' inventory of vinyl records helped sales, but never to where they were before 2006. In addition, Gianakopoulos said the Madison Street landlord raised rent by 5 percent every year. By 2017, rent was double what is was when the business opened, he said. The cost of insurance also kept increasing and "selling music and movies in the era of Spotify and Netflix is not an easy task," Gianakopoulos said.
Two years ago, as expenses continued to exceed revenue, Gianakopoulos moved from Madison Street to 413 Desplaines Avenue, which he said has less foot traffic and parking but lower rent. The move helped the numbers on one side of the balance sheet, but added to the problems on the other side, he said.
"The move did cost me in revenue," Gianakopoulos said, "and over extended [borrowing] in the end increased my monthly expenses."
Part of what makes Gianakopolous feel comfortable asking for financial help is that, for him, Old School Records is "not just a business."
"Our business is unique," he said. "Amazon might have a one-click system, but we provide friendly personalities, good conversation and personal service. When people come in here, time stops like in a barber shop or a bar. People pull up a chair and hang out for hours talking about music, family, love, politics or any topic under the sun."
He added: "With all of the challenges, there is nothing I would rather be doing."
If you would like to contribute to Old School Records' fundraiser on GoFundMe go to https://www.gofundme.com/raising-funds-for-back-rent-and-taxes