You know, my local Tower Records in the early and mid-80's was very much like you describe Sam's. There were hangar-sized classical and jazz departments (all vinyl back then) and extremely knowledgeable music buffs working there who could direct you to incredible finds. Like you, I spent many hours there (the store was open every night till midnight!), browsing and schmoozing. I learned so much about current rock and new wave from dedicated employees' picks and recommendations. These remain some of my absolute favorite LPs, though I really prefer jazz and acoustic for most of my listening nowadays. So it's not just sole-proprietor neighborhood record stores that have succumbed to modern retail sameness and hype. Even Tower used to be a great gathering place for discussing and finding great music. In my neighborhood (Wash DC) we also used to have Kemp Mill, Melody Music, and Olsson's, which have also drastically changed if not disappeared. No one at Borders knows anything about music.
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