STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We've been hearing many stories of this tough economy in our series Hard Times, and today we go to Louisville, Kentucky where a businessman is trying to figure out what's next after selling music for more than a quarter of a century.
JOHN TIMMONS: My name's John Timmons, I am, or was, the owner of ear X-tacy records in Louisville, Kentucky. We had a nice run of 26 years here.
INSKEEP: Am or was the owner. NPR's Debbie Elliott has our profile.
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Dead roses, farewell notes, and other mementos are taped to the glass doors when I arrive at ear X-tacy records.
TIMMONS: Debbie I assume?
ELLIOTT: Owner John Timmons is waiting in the dark and quiet store to let me in.
TIMMONS: Step over the notes that people have been sliding under the door.
ELLIOTT: It's the first time he's been inside since closing at the end of October.
TIMMONS: It's tough to let go after 26 years, this has been my child.
ELLIOTT: A child born with a cash advance from a credit card and his personal record collection right out of college. He named the store after the British band XTC, one of his favorites in the 80s. Recently, Timmons went into personal debt again to try to keep the store afloat.
TIMMONS: In the last year, I rarely listened to music in my office. It was more about fielding phone calls, and talking to creditors and, you know, figuring out how to make the rent or how to make, you know, payroll this week. That's not why I got into this business.
ELLIOTT: When he closed, he had to let go of the ten people who worked here. It's a big store - 6500 square feet, packed with CDs, DVDs, cassettes, albums - just about any medium on which you can listen to a song of any genre.
TIMMONS: "Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits."
ELLIOTT: Timmons thumbs through the vinyl section.
TIMMONS: Todd Rungren, one of my all-time favorite artists here. Johnny Rivers, Santana, Boz Scaggs. We run the gamut here. We go from AC/DC to Frank Zappa to who knows.
ELLIOTT: There's even a stage for live performances. National acts, like the Black Keys and the Foo Fighters played free shows here.
TIMMONS: You know, most people when they think of a record store they think of, you know, a department at Best Buy or Walmart or wherever they're going. But this was more of an experience where you could come in and share your love of music with everybody.
ELLIOTT: Now, ear X-tacy joins the ranks of hundreds like it, another independent music store that just couldn't make it.
TIMMONS: Music industry is one thing. I've been able to survive the changes in the music industry. With the downloads, we had a download store online. Kids are buying records now. Vinyl's making a resurgence, and that's a growth area. But I have to believe it's just the economy. The last few years have just been brutal for us.
ELLIOTT: So brutal that last year, he made this public plea for business during an emotional news conference.
TIMMONS: I'm not asking for a bailout, I'm not asking for a handout, I'm asking for that proverbial hand up.
ELLIOTT: Today, alone in the store, Timmons is thankful for the customers who stuck with him through the hard times.
TIMMONS: I know you've only got x amount of dollars. I don't have money to spend like I did five years ago. And I just – you know, people have priorities and music is just not a top priority right now. So that's what's really taken its toll on us.
ELLIOTT: The timing of the economic downturn couldn't have been worse, Timmons says, given the other pressures on his business. He says while iPods are handy, he still finds pleasure in vinyl.
TIMMONS: Let me fire up the turn table here.
ELLIOTT: He selects the Louisville band My Morning Jacket.
TIMMONS: A song called "I'm Amazed."
ELLIOTT: Contemplating the future is daunting, he says.
TIMMONS: I don't know what I'm going to do for a real job now, since I've been doing this for 30-something years. I'm 56 years old. I don't know. I'm so associated with this store, I'm the ear X-tacy guy. ear X-tacy goes away, who am I going to be?
ELLIOTT: Trying to look up, Timmons says at least he'll have time to spend with family this holiday season. He won't be behind a record store counter for the first time in 33 years
Debbie Elliott, NPR News.