17 October 2007

Bullish on Moose

I have very much enjoyed my recent visits to Brunswick, Maine. The terrific, newly re-opened Bowdoin College Museum of Art is what brought me to town, but there was another reason to feel good about my visit: the excellent Bull Moose Music store.

New York City, despite being the greatest city in the country and one of the best on our planet, has not been immune to the pressures of the big box store and the surge in “retail” banking, which affects bookstores and other kinds of shops, including CDs stores. Since Tower Records went bankrupt (a small irony for a big box retailer), and NYCD closed its shop on the Upper West Side, New Yorkers are increasingly dependent on chains like Barnes & Noble or Borders, stores like J&R (which I like, but is not nearby), or on the internet.

So visiting Bull Moose in Brunswick was a real treat, and I was happy to do my part – three times now! – for the local economy by spending some time and money there. Two things made this worthwhile: the ability to browse leisurely even late at night (when many other things in Brunswick are closed, Bull Moose is still open), and the degree of variety in its stock. Much has been written about whether or why big box stores are good or bad – for consumers, communities, and other businesses – but there is no question that Bull Moose had shelves full of CDs that are harder to find at chain stores that cater to the lowest common denominator of interests. Browsing in person, instead of virtually via the internet, is also valuable; I find that the mind makes associations and connections to other interests more rapidly when I am looking at the CDs (or books) directly. Moreover, the clerk in the Brunswick store knew her store and her clientèle well enough to give me one CD for free, noting (sadly!) the otherwise-limited interest in one of my purchases. Did that encourage me to come back the next day? Yes! Bull Moose also stocks some used CDs, which most mass-retailers do not, in many cases offering the option of buying the new or used version of whatever one wants.

Although there are apparently ten Bull Moose stores around Maine, the shop I visited felt like one-of-a-kind. Alas, it only made me feel the absence of such stores here in New York that much more.


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