Eagle Valley Music in West Vail
VAIL. Colorado Most men couldnt imagine working with their mom for almost a quarter of a century, but this is Tom Robbins reality.He doesnt seem to mind too much though.His mother, Jeannie Robbins, is one half of the mother-son duo that owns and operates Eagle Valley Music in the West Vail Mall. She said that they get along most of the time but that, like any family that spends a lot of time together, they get going every once in a while.This year the store celebrates 24 years under the families name, and a store-wide sale is in the works for late this year or early 2008 to mark the anniversary. My opinion is that you should never be in a business that you know nothing about, Tom said about his decision to expand the merchandise in the store since they moved from the old Crossroads location to the new spot next to the Sandbar in West Vail. After 24 years its not surprising that Tom seems to have a handle on every aspect of the business.The new store is approximately 400 square feet larger than the old one, and sales of comic books, clothing, memorabilia and other miscellaneous services such as VHS rentals has been incorporated into the already steady inventory of music and movie sales.Tom said he considers Eagle Valley Music to be a lifestyle store, or a store that appeals and caters to a certain demographic of people (usually aged 20 to 30) who he knows will spend money on products they are interested in kind of like an independent Urban Outfitters, a hip chain store found in malls across the county.
The Robbins family moved to Colorado from Lincoln, Neb. in 1977 and they purchased Eagle Valley Music in 1983 after Tom spent three summers working there. Since then, the shop has survived dull summers, endless construction and the digital revolution. Tom and Jeannie moved the store to the West Vail Mall when Crossroads shopping center was demolished last spring to make way for Solaris, a new condos/shopping center.When I first moved in there (the new store) I was very excited because I think it is a great location. Theres a lot of traffic there, its just a matter of people knowing youre there, Tom said.But since moving to the new location Tom and Jeannie have struggled with slow business. To drive more business, they decided to keep the doors open until midnight every night. And while Jeannie misses the old space, she is optimistic about the future.Were really lucky to have found a spot and I think in the long run it will be good, and its big, Jeannie said. One customer told me that every time a local finds us he will always remember where we are and theyll tell other people, and I think it will work out OK and well be happy there.
But how does one stay afloat in todays era of easy music downloading and order-by- mail movie conglomerates such as Netflix?The answer, according to Tom, is providing products and services that only small businesses such as his can.There are a lot of people out there, especially younger people, that have never even bought a CD, theyve downloaded everything. But the thing I think is the saving grace for CDs … is that the sound quality is much better, Tom said.Sales of vinyl records are on the rise nationally too, and he stays on top of such information, quick to turn it into a retail weapon.Theyre diggin on the sound of the vinyl because the vinyls so warm. It just has an envelopment that you just cant get from something thats been transferred to digital or recorded digitally in the first place, Tom said.Tom and Jeannie pride themselves on their ability to offer knowledge about the music and movies their customers seek and theyll special order anything they dont carry on their shelves. There is enough old-school love for music and appreciation for what goes into an album (not to mention hatred of big-box stores) to keep stores like his in business, Tom insists. Some people are definitely willing to trade quality for convenience … but theres still a lot of people the true music lovers they like the liner notes, they dont illegally download things because its stealing, or they want to appreciate the artist and the music and they know that fair is fair, Tom said.Its also nice to be a customer and walk into a store where the people working there know what theyre talking about. One conversation with either Tom or Jeannie and there is a sense of the connection that they feel with the music they are selling. They understand trends and can go toe-to-toe with most during a conversation about artists and albums.Theyre like your old record store. Theyre not computerized and you can ask them anything and theyre going to probably know it, said Robert Aikens, owner of Verbatim Booksellers in Vail who has been an Eagle Valley Music customer for 18 years. They just know their stuff. Theyre like computers in themselves.As a teenager almost everybody thought the coolest job in the world was working in a record store, and Jeannie validates such thoughts, even after 24 years in the same business, with her positive, warm explanation of such a career choice.When you can be at a place and play music all day and have happy people come in, why, its a good thing, Jeannie said.Arts & Entertainment writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.