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Skippy White’s legendary record shop is closing

Skippy White (right) manned the counter of his Egleston Square store while chatting with Boston Police Officer Carlos Martinez in May 2012.
Skippy White (right) manned the counter of his Egleston Square store while chatting with Boston Police Officer Carlos Martinez in May 2012.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

After nearly 59 years in business, Skippy White’s record shop will be shutting down for good.

White opened his first record store in Boston in 1961, and he’s been at the Egleston Square location for 15 years.

White, 83, announced his plans Tuesday, saying the shop at 1971 Columbus Ave. would remain open “at least through the end of the year" until most of the inventory is sold.

“Well, it’s Christmas time and everyone is doing their Christmas shopping. Everywhere, that is except at the record shop,” White wrote in a Facebook post.

White said CD sales had been dwindling over the last several years, and even with a boost from vinyl LP sales, “It looks like the end is in sight. We will down price everything in the store. Come in and take advantage of our going out of business sale. [...] If it isn’t nailed down, it’s got to go. And thank you for your support all these years.”

That announcement on White’s Facebook page was met with scores of comments from longtime customers and fans, who wrote heartfelt messages and reminisced about buying music at his store, which many described as “an institution.”

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According to the Globe archives, the original Skippy White’s was located on Washington Street between Lenox and Northampton streets in the South End. He relocated his record shop to Massachusetts Avenue in 1969. Back then, White worked in retail and wholesale.

“We used to sell to all the stores in New England,” White said in a telephone interview.

But it wasn’t all easy. White recalled a devastating fire that broke out that almost put him out of business. “April 2, 1976,” said White, who remembers watching the firefighters douse the building with water.

White said that after the fire, he considered declaring bankruptcy. But his passion for music motivated him to keep going.

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Now, all these years later, he’s deciding to close up shop. But he’s not retiring. He’ll continue doing his radio shows, and he’s going to keep in touch with loyal customers who still count on him to procure hard-to-find records and CDs. White is also writing a book about his life in the music business.

It’s an industry that has undergone many changes since he opened his first store in 1961.

Today, instead of buying music in stores, people listen to songs on their smartphones and subscribe to online streaming services. While there are younger people who have gotten into vinyl, it’s “not enough to sustain the business,” he said.

Years ago, when a new album was released, people would come to the store to buy it, and they’d end up purchasing other merchandise. But times have changed, and White doesn’t see that kind of foot traffic anymore.

“We used to sell a lot of new music,” he said. “Today, the new music doesn’t bring people in anymore."

After making the announcement about his plans to close his shop in Egleston Square, White followed up with another Facebook post, thanking everyone who responded to his post with words of encouragement and support.

“It’s been a long rough and rocky road,” he wrote. “It’s great to know that you are remembered and appreciated.”

White also wanted to remind his fans that he’ll continue to be a presence on the radio, and he’ll be hosting a new gospel music show on Sundays.

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He said his shows “Time Tunnel” and “Gospel Train” will continue on 98.1 FM “The Urban Heat,” which is currently available online at heat981fm.com. He also said he was starting another edition of “Gospel Train” on WBCA-FM 102.9.




Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.