An unfortunate day has come, which anyone could have predicted: according to the Roanoke Times, Crossroads CDs in Blacksburg is closing – for good. The space will be leased instead by the owners of India Garden, who will make it a small grocery store aimed at Tech students.
Allow me to sound 80 years old for a moment. Back in the good old days, Crossroads was located at the corner of College Avenue and Main Street. It sold new and used CDs and music magazines, tons of vinyl, and rented out DVDs, some of which were pretty hard to find elsewhere. I would come in there all the time to search (in vain) for an original pressing of the Ramones’ Leave Home (the one that was released with “Carbona Not Glue” before Carbona threatened to sue them). I would grab up the free CDs and random stickers that they offered at the counter. I’d check out the free listening stations, which often showcased lesser-known artists. But my favorite thing about Crossroads was hearing the daily staff music selection broadcast over the loudspeakers, often something I’d never heard before. I bought CDs by artists I knew nothing about several times after chatting with someone behind the counter. And I was rarely, if ever, disappointed. I can thank Crossroads for introducing me to favorites like independent hip-hop artist Blueprint, and electropopish band The Lovemakers. Eric bought one of his favorite albums (by French electronic band DAT politics) after it was the Crossroads soundtrack du jour. The dude at the register couldn’t find the CD in the store, so he just went ahead and sold the store copy they had to Eric and put something else on the speakers.
When I first enrolled at Tech, Crossroads had two major competitors on the same street: then-popular local chain The Record Exchange, and Mike’s. Mike’s folded a few years later and in fact, I think Crossroads absorbed its movie-rental business at that point. The Record Exchange chain closed altogether about five years ago; the space became the local Republican headquarters. And then Crossroads moved out of the location that presumably inspired its namesake and took up its current Prices Fork storefront. (The original location was replaced with the unbearably bland food chain Moe’s.) With the future of real physical music stores already as bleak as it gets, I had a twisted feeling in my stomach seeing it leave an area accessed daily by VT foot traffic. The last time I stopped at Crossroads – finding it easier to drive there rather than run across a busy road several blocks from where I’d parked – I asked the clerk how they were doing. He was simply resigned to the fact that their customer base had dropped sharply and that this was the true beginning of the end.
So I offer a fond farewell to a place that represented what I love about stores, real stores that rent or sell movies, or music, or books, or anything else that people would rather buy online now, from the safety and seclusion of their homes. Crossroads was a chance to get out and discuss these things with people – real live people, not personas hidden behind silly avatars and cutesy nicknames. It represented a time when if you wanted to learn more about video games, or the latest music artists, or new movie releases, you had to move your duff and – gasp! – socialize in the original social network – the one made up of real live people. Nowadays you can buy or rent all of these things right from your computer; you can download games directly to your phone for you to play while avoiding conversation with the other people at the bar; you can pick the movies up out of your mailbox and look online to see any random person’s typed opinion of it. And in the midst of it all, brick and mortar stores shut down and make room for more tasteless food chains and more Walmarts.
Whether or not this is ultimately good or bad is up to you. But to me, it’s a bittersweet mix of both … and the bitter part is just a little bit stronger.