God on her side
She's run this record shop for nearly 50 years — and still it's like candy land
Published: March 7, 2012
"They can't do that over the Internet," Simpson says, with a trace of defiance. "They won't ever get the service anywhere that they get up in here, I promise."
What do you do when people no longer want the things you've devoted half your life to selling?
For a long time, Simpson answered that question by adapting to whatever changes her business faced. When cassettes came along, she started stocking tapes along with the records. Then CDs showed up, supplanting them both, and she filled the store with them. Now digital music has taken over, but she's got no way to stock that.
"They want to do it all over the Internet, I guess, cut everybody else off," says Simpson, whose store's very name embodies an obsolete product. "Especially if you want to be a retailer or something, there won't be room for you. They'll do it all themselves."
But some people are still drawn to its old-time record shop ambience, where they can listen to music and talk about it with staff and other customers. And since most record stores around town have closed, Simpson's is one of the last where that kind of social scene takes place. Add candy to that mix, and the place keeps a lot of loyal regulars.
Still, business has slowed in recent years, and Simpson's husband passed away a few years ago, so she narrowed the stock and cut the store's hours. At 82 she doesn't need the uncertainty of owning a record store in a mostly empty neighborhood, but this has been her world for so long she doesn't want to step aside.
"I don't know what my life would be like without it," she says. "I'm sure I would find my way; I have children and grandchildren, and I could find a lot of things to do. That's not the problem. I just like what I do. I love the people. They take very good care of me and always have."
The store holds a half-century of grandmotherly charm. Houseplants on the ledge bask in the south window's sun. Graduation pictures of relatives and customers hang proudly on the walls. Little paper signs on the wall declare that God is watching out for the store and those in it. And hundreds of little sweets form a rainbow on the wall, ready to be handed out by the neighborhood's grandma.
The door swings open and Simpson hears a customer walk to the long wood counter. "You want something over here, baby?" she says, as she turns and looks.
It's another grown man waiting for Miss Simpson to give him some candy.
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