Russ Solomon, Founder of Tower Records, Dies at 92


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Mr. Springsteen, Bette Midler, Lou Reed and Michael Jackson had been common patrons. So was David Chiu, a Brooklyn journalist.

“If you walked into the Tower Information retailer in New York Metropolis’s Greenwich Village neighborhood again within the day, you simply didn’t go in there to purchase an album after which rush off to go away,” he wrote in Cuepoint, a web-based publication, in 2016. “To me, going into Tower was like visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork or attending a baseball recreation — it required a sure funding of time.”

Mr. Solomon informed Billboard journal in 2015: “Our favourite common was Elton John. He in all probability was the perfect buyer we ever had. He was in certainly one of our shops each week, actually, wherever he was — in L.A., in Atlanta when he lived in Atlanta, and in New York.”

In an interview for this obituary final September, Mr. Solomon recalled that he opened the primary Tower Information retailer in what had been his father’s drugstore with $5,000 in borrowed capital. He known as it “a neighborhood enterprise,” which he named after the Tower Theater, an area landmark that was in-built 1938 and topped by a neon-bathed, 100-foot Artwork Deco pillar.

He quickly opened a second Sacramento outlet, however the enterprise didn’t take off till 1968, when he opened Tower Information in San Francisco. It was an immediate sensation within the coronary heart of the hippie and music scene, capitalizing on the 1967 Summer season of Love. At 5,000 sq. ft, the shop was small by later firm requirements, but it surely set a method for the longer term: vast choices and discounted costs.

“I stole concepts from grocery store merchandising,” Mr. Solomon recalled. The shop, he stated, stacked hot-selling objects on the ground, to encourage impulse shopping for and to recommend plentiful provides, reinforcing the impression that Tower could be effectively stocked when rivals’ provides had run out. The shop additionally set late-night closing hours.

However a very powerful innovation, he stated, was hiring a workers so effectively versed within the native music scene that the shop might order its personal stock. It was a job that music chains sometimes assigned to a central workplace to realize economies of scale for his or her retailers. However Mr. Solomon discovered that native judgments had been extra worthwhile, and decentralized ordering turned a sample for all his shops.

“We wished folks within the retailer to run the shop — they’re your power,” Mr. Solomon stated. “Central shopping for is only a unhealthy concept. You may’t make choices on what to do in Phoenix for those who’re sitting in New York or London.”

Whereas workers wages had been comparatively low, the employees got uncommon fringe advantages, together with events with stay bands and alternatives to mingle with musicians, promoters, report firm executives and radio and tv personalities, Mr. Solomon stated. And within the 1960s and ′70s, he stated, staff got day off to attend protests in opposition to the Vietnam Battle.

“It was the proper factor to do,” he stated. “We needed to be with the scene. It was necessary to us and to them.”

As enterprise boomed within the ′70s and ′80s, he established Tower Information retailers in main cities throughout the USA, many with 20,000 to 40,000 sq. ft of area. The New York flagship, in Greenwich Village, opened in 1983.

Tower started opening shops overseas within the 1980s, beginning in Japan and spreading in Asia, Europe and Latin America. Within the 1990s, it turned the nation’s largest privately held music retailer, with almost 200 shops in the USA and 14 different international locations.

Nevertheless it by no means went public. “That was the dumbest factor I ever did,” Mr. Solomon conceded. Promoting inventory may need paid for additional enlargement. As a substitute, he borrowed to finance extra shops, and his debt swelled to $300 million. In 1999, Tower gross sales topped $1 billion, however its monetary tailspin had already begun. The corporate misplaced $10 million in 2000 and $90 million in 2001.

Mr. Solomon offered and closed shops and transformed others to franchises. On the identical time, the music enterprise went right into a stoop. Tower declared chapter in 2004, and in 2006 it was pressured to liquidate and shut.


Tower Information in downtown Manhattan in 2006, shortly earlier than the corporate closed.

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Mary Altaffer/Related Press

Mr. Solomon acknowledged that he had underestimated the web’s risk to retailer retailing. Pirates downloaded music with out paying for it, and paying clients turned to on-line distributors and price-cutters like Wal-Mart and Finest Purchase. The proprietor blamed himself.

“I used to be overextended,” Mr. Solomon stated. “I used to be swamped by the debt.”

Russell Malcolm Solomon was born on Sept. 22, 1925, in San Francisco to Clayton Solomon and the previous Annette Sockolov. The boy and his sister, Shirley, grew up principally in Sacramento, the state capital, the place their father established his enterprise, Tower Reduce Price Medicine, within the late 1930s.

Russell, an detached pupil, was expelled for repeated truancy from C. Ok. McClatchy Excessive College at 16 and went to work for his father. He served stateside within the Military Air Forces from 1944 to 1946.

In 1946, he married Doris Epstein, from whom he was divorced. In 2010, he married Patricia Drosins, who survives him. Apart from his son Michael, he’s additionally survived by one other son, David; 4 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Michael Solomon stated his father died, apparently of a coronary heart assault, whereas watching the Academy Awards ceremony on tv.

Mr. Solomon tried a comeback in 2007, opening a retailer known as R5 Information on the location of his first Sacramento retailer. He not had the rights to the Tower Information title, however used its pink and yellow coloration scheme for his brand. After three comparatively unsuccessful years, R5 Information was offered to an area music chain.

A nostalgic documentary, “All Issues Should Cross: The Rise and Fall of Tower Information,” directed by the actor Colin Hanks, was launched in 2015. It featured Mr. Solomon and lots of of his former staff and patrons, together with Elton John, who known as the shuttering of Tower Information “one of many nice tragedies of my life.”

All Issues Should Cross The Rise and Fall of Tower Information Video by UniversalPlaybackTV

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