Even L.A.’s most famous record store is struggling to survive the pandemic. Amoeba Music has lost nearly all its revenue while closed, 400 workers have been furloughed, and owner Marc Weinstein is worried about paying rent for his three stores when May 1 rolls around. On Monday, Weinstein launched an Amoeba Go Fund Me campaign, seeking to raise $400,000 to cover immediate expenses for the store and staff.
“We have weathered many storms: 9/11, recessions, the internet, downloading, and streaming. But we don’t know that we can weather the COVID-19 storm,” Weinstein’s statement on the Go Fund Me page reads. “We’d like to reassure you that we’re doing everything we can to keep Amoeba going, and to position ourselves to play a vital role in what is for now a very uncertain future. We know how much we’re all going to need Amoeba again, this oasis of music, where we can find each other once more.”
The L.A. store has been preparing to move to a new location on Hollywood Boulevard in October, adding an additional element of uncertainty to their situation. In a conversation with Variety, Weinstein noted that it’s possible that even if they are able to establish a financial “bridge” to get them through the coming months, a prolonged shutdown of brick-and-mortar retailers could mean they never welcome customers back inside the Sunset Boulevard store they know.
“I don’t know the answer to that yet, because at this point, we’re negotiating with our owner-landlords and our financing with the banks,” Weinstein told Variety. “We’re just trying to work something out with them. And hopefully we can make some kind of deal that we can afford and open again where we are now. But mostly we’re keeping our eye on getting open on Hollywood Boulevard.”
While Amoeba does offer online shopping, Weinstein says it accounts for only a tiny fraction of the company’s revenue–an amount approximately equivalent to just 10 percent of typical in-store sales at the Hollywood location alone. And that plunge in sales isn’t just bad for Amoeba, he points out. As one of the largest remaining record stores in America, the shop is a major fixture in the music supply chain. Weinstein cites vinyl record presses in particular, a business that was already teetering prior to pandemic.
But his greatest concern, he says, is for the over 400 people who work for Amoeba, 300 of them in L.A. So far those workers have been furloughed but not laid off, and the company is continuing to cover the health insurance and benefits of eligible employees.
“We are, more than anything, trying to keep all of that alive, their jobs,” he said. “I mean, honestly, I have over the years felt most proud about all the jobs that we’ve created, as much as the environment we’ve created, and not about necessarily the success of our business financially by any means. Because it’s been somewhat of a struggle over the years. We’re wonderfully celebrated and busy enough that it’s kept us going all these years, despite the fact that it hasn’t been as profitable as it once was by any means.”
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