Long Island Sound was more than just a record store.
For many, it was a meeting place where they could always run into a friend or strike up a conversation about music with someone new.
For owner Gary Madison, it was his life and his livelihood.
But on Saturday night, Mr. Madison shuttered the Sound for the very last time, after 37 years of selling records on Jobs Lane in Southampton Village.
“Increasing rents and declining sales are not the best business model,” he said in the same matter-of-fact manner he displayed throughout an interview months ago when he explained all of the challenges his store faced, like competing with big-box stores and the growing trend of music being downloaded from the internet.
That last Saturday morning at the Sound, and into the evening, the music was playing louder than normal. Food delivered from Paul’s Italian Restaurant and Kathleen’s Bake Shop, offered as farewell presents, sat on the counter, and punch was served to disappointed old friends and customers who came to say goodbye and reminisce about the years spent at Long Island Sound.
Mr. Madison said he didn’t expect the outpouring of thanks and well-wishes he’s received since posting a “Closing Sale” sign in the window a couple weeks ago.
“I guess after 37 years, people remember,” he said.
Mr. Madison has had, and closed, shops in East Hampton, Riverhead, Smithtown and Westhampton over the years. Now that the Southampton branch is out of business as well, he said, he’s out of the music business, but might try to find a job in retail.
“It was tough for a while ...” Mr. Madison said. “Now that it’s done, it’s done.”
Hundreds of customers came through the store on Saturday. As many as 50 crammed in at one time that afternoon, Mr. Madison said.
“It used to be like this, in the heyday, every Saturday,” he said, but it hasn’t been that way since the 1980s.
“The way the music industry is going, these kinds of stores can’t exist anymore,” Peter of Hampton Bays said as he was browsing Mr. Madison’s selection on Saturday. He had already set aside a couple dozen CDs to buy and was still looking for more.
Peter—who refused to give his last name, saying he wants to keep his 70,000-record-strong music collection safe—said he has been collecting music for 55 years and has known Mr. Madison for most of them. He hasn’t been able to drive himself around for the past few years, so he hasn’t made it into the Sound for a while, but he was there twice in the final week to grab some finds while he still could.
“There’s a music guy ...” Mr. Madison said of Peter. “There’s no more guys like him. That era’s over.”
Fred Weinfurt of Water Mill, who was at Long Island Sound on Friday browsing the vinyl and holding a copy of the 30th anniversary re-release of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” said he can’t imagine where he’ll buy music now.
“He’s been coming in here 30 years, and I don’t think he’s bought anything but Pink Floyd,” Mr. Madison said.
The closing was also a family affair for Mr. Madison, whose wife, Nina, and children, William and Stephanie, joined him for the last day. Every member of the Madison clan has worked at the Sound at one time or another. In fact, Ms. Madison started as a customer. Then Mr. Madison hired her to sell T-shirts, and a few years later they married.
William, now 19, worked at the store every weekend between the ages of 7 and 13. Stephanie, 17, worked there up until the final day. “We used to fight about who got to come to work with dad,” she said.
William, a student at Boston University, said that after all these years his father’s friends are still telling him about how they used to come into the store and see him on the counter in a baby carrier.
Both Madison kids said they have been hearing all kinds of stories about the Sound from their father’s old friends and customers, some who came from as far as upstate New York or even out of state for the final weekend. Several talked about getting their first record or first tape from the shop.
Stephanie called the situation bittersweet. If the store stayed open, things were only going to get harder, she said.
Her mother, though sad to see it go, said she thinks good can come of change and promised the family would move on.
Ms. Madison also predicted the entire retail music industry would be gone in five years time.
“It’s not just a small-town phenomenon,” said Jim Curcio, a Sound customer for 10 years.
Mr. Curcio splits his time between Southampton Village and Manhattan, and he pointed out that Tower Records in the city went out of business, and now the Virgin Megastore has met the same fate.
It’s still unbelievable to see it happen to Long Island Sound, he said. “This is the end of an era.”