Roadhouse Oldies closing after more than 40 years

Photo by Mike Mowery.

After more than 40 years in downtown Silver Spring, Roadhouse Oldies will turn off the tunes for good after the Christmas season.

The store, located at 914 Silver Spring Ave., is a victim of time and a changing industry, according to owner Alan Lee.

“We’ve been in downtown Silver Spring 43 years, 43 good years,” Lee said, “but as you can probably imagine, not only has the retail business changed, but the music business has certainly changed.

“We pretty much have always catered to the baby boomer generation and they’re getting older,” he continued. “Most baby boomers spent their lives accumulating stuff and now baby boomers, if they’re still alive, they’re getting rid of stuff.

“People who were actively accumulating music, albeit records or cassettes or CDs or whatever, are no longer accumulating stuff, “ he concluded.

Lee noted the advent of other changes, from the amount of music available online to the fact that most new cars no longer have CD players.

The store specialized in oldies, 60s rock, soul and doo-wop that customers couldn’t find at stores such as Tower Records or Kemp Mill Records (both now long gone). The bulk of his business at first was on vinyl LPs and singles. In the last 25 years, CDs have been the majority of the business (which Lee admitted he didn’t see coming at first, largely due to the higher price point over LPs).

“Lo and behold, what happened?” Lee said. “People don’t buy CDs anymore.”

Lee also has been doing an oldies radio program since 1972, when he started on a D.C. station. Since 1985, he’s been doing the show in Baltimore from 6-9 p.m. on Friday nights on WQLL 1370 AM. He plans to continue that broadcast, saying, “I’ve got to do what I can to keep the music alive.”

(Lee also noted that the store’s manager, Warren “Scooter” Magruder, does similar shows on WPFW-FM 89.3 FM “and he’ll be keeping the music alive, too.”)

The store, which is selling merchandise now at 50 percent off, has been struggling the past couple of years, Lee said, but he’d be happy to entertain offers from anyone who would like to get into the business. But there’s a catch.

“I liken it to trying to sell a cigarette vending machine business now,” Lee said. “You don’t see many cigarette vending machines anymore.”

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