Eagle Valley Music celebrates 25 years | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley Music celebrates 25 years

VAIL ” Vinyl was king when Tom Robbins took over Eagle Valley Music in 1983. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was at the top of the charts.

A quarter-century later, in the post-CD era, vinyl is making a comeback, at least for some audio purists.

“We’ll get 10 or 15 copies (in vinyl) with just about every new release,” Robbins said. “But it’s not like it was.”

Robbins, a 1982 graduate of Battle Mountain High School, had already worked at Eagle Valley Music for a few years when his family bought the store, then located in the old Crossroads shopping center on Meadow Drive.

The family, but mostly Robbins and his mom, Jeannie, have seen the music business evolve dramatically from what may have been the industry’s high-water mark in the 1980s and ’90s. Then, cassette, CD and vinyl record sales dominated. Numerous bands could sell out halls the size of the current Pepsi Center in Denver, and several could pack a joint the size of Mile High Stadium.

Then the bottom fell out.

Robbins believes the decline started about the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. About that time began the rise of digital music. Between the iPod and music-sharing services like the first generation of Napster ” which was free ” CD sales plummeted.

So Robbins adapted to the times. Selling fewer CDs, he added items including T-shirts, DVDs and novelties.

Still, Eagle Valley Music is packed with CDs both popular and offbeat. And Robbins is fighting the good fight in the face of iTunes and Amazon.

Robbins claims he’s cheaper than Amazon much of the time, especially for customers who have to pay the Internet retailer for shipping. And, of course, a customer can walk out of the store with a CD or comic and take it home right away.

“Amazon isn’t very quick sometimes.”

It’s about impossible to compete with the immediacy of iTunes. But, Robbins said, iTunes shoppers don’t get everything artists put into their songs.

“The thing about music downloads is a lot of people don’t like the decrease in sound quality,” Robbins said. “It sounds really clipped.”

When Eagle Valley Music moved out of Crossroads and into a storefront next to the Sandbar in West Vail a couple of summers ago, the hours changed. These days, Robbins will be in the store until midnight most nights. He does it for reasons other than catching the bar crowd, although that’s certainly a big part of the idea.

“People like to come in and hang out,” Robbins said. “They enjoy coming in to talk about music or comics.”

And, Robbins said, he’s got a core of loyal customers. Some are in once a week, or more.

Tom Mumpower is one of those regulars. With a kid of his own at home, Mumpower’s buying habits have shifted away from music he enjoys to buying “High School Musical” and other tweener hits.

“I’ve been coming for the last 20 years,” Mumpower said. “I’ve got to support Tom and his mom.”

And Robbins plans to soldier on in his West Vail store.

“We’ll continue to find other products,” he said. “And we’ll make up ground with our hours and customer service.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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