When asked about having an e-mail address, Amy Muncy, a 32-year-old employee at CD Source, one of the area's best and most unusual music shops, shakes her head. "Look, I work at a CD store. I can't afford a computer." Muncy, a slightly gothic, caffeine-addicted fan of Buckethead and Cannibal Corpse, has worked at the store for almost three years, taking orders and selling discs to a wide variety of clientele: lawyers, teachers, cross-dressers, druggies, even a few who might be best served by better-trained, mental health professionals.
"I thought one lady was going to kill me over $4," says Muncy, recalling a customer commonly referred to as "Sheeba" who wanted a tad more for her used CDs than the store was willing to offer.
Opened in 1993 by attorney and music lover Lance Price, CD Source has become the favored spot of music writers and DJs for unloading countless promos and browsing through one of the best selections of used discs in the state. A cataloging nightmare, the store offers a massive variety of quality music: From blues to electronica to neo-classical, there's nary a style of music that cannot be found in the packed wood racks that stand upon the threadbare carpet.
Yet as amazing as the selection may be, it's the employees who really create the persona of the store. Ranging in age from 18 to 60, the staff of CD Source is a wild assortment of students, salespeople, slackers and semi-retired geeks, each one specializing in some genre and each bringing a distinctive set of personality quirks to the job.
"We hire people who know music," says general manager Larry Hanover, a somewhat nervous sort who helped open the store with Price more than a decade ago. "But we also like to have folks who have a personality."
One of the most personable is Pat, a spry lady in her middle years who is elusive concerning just about any topic, including her last name and nationality. "I am Chinese but made in Mexico," she says, sitting in her usual catbird spot, elevated at the front of the store, watching for anyone looking for a five-finger discount.
Luckily for Price and Hanover, shoplifting has been an irregular occurrence, which is remarkable when one considers the large amount of customers who daily riffle through the huge inventory.
CD Source is unique in that there is only one store. Price has thought about opening another but feels that a new location might jeopardize the customer loyalty he has worked so hard to cultivate.
"We have customers who shop here every single day," says Price. "You start to have a relationship with these kind of people."
Part of that relationship means buying CDs from people in all sorts of interesting circumstances. CD Source usually offers $4 for a used disc, making someone's music collection a tempting way to get the rent paid or perhaps indulge in more addictive concerns. Occasionally a case will come in that contains more than just the disc.
"We've had CDs come with bugs in them and, uh, with fluids," says Muncy, looking squeamishly down at the floor.
"We have people selling discs for all kinds of reasons," says Kevin Meyers, an eight-year store veteran and resident jazz guru, "gas money, drugs, to pay the electric bill or just to have the cash."
Some customers bring in a single disc while others lug in several boxes of soon to be orphaned music.
"The biggest buy I can remember was between $2,500 and $3,000," says Hanover. "That could be around 700 items and take days to process."
With that much cash flowing out of the store, one can't help but wonder exactly how much is coming in.
"We wouldn't be open if we weren't doing all right," says Price, who also does the unenviable job of scheduling more than a dozen employees. Almost from the moment the store opens, there seems to be a constant stream of those in need of new tunes lining up elbow to elbow in search of that elusive piece of plastic.
"On some days, I'd be surprised if 1,000 people didn't come through here," says Josh Whitney, a burly, bearded 24-year-old with blue fingernail polish who claims not to even like music.
CD Source bought out a neighboring tanning salon and expanded in 2001, adding some much-needed room to roam and allowing the store to buy and sell DVDs, supposedly Whitney's niche.
When Price first opened the place, there was more competition in the area, but with the closings of Sound Warehouse and Pagan Rhythms, CD Source turned into the de facto spot to buy music in a coveted location on the corner of Lovers Lane and Greenville Avenue. In December, the store will celebrate its 13th anniversary, a special point of vindication for independently minded Price.
"We're pleased we've been able to survive while the national competition in the area, such as Virgin Records, were not able to compete," says the owner.
This success becomes even more surprising when one spends an extended time in the store. Like any family, the employees of CD Source have their dysfunctional moments. There have been shouting matches, heated arguments (usually over which CD is played in the store's sound system), and even one employee pushing another up against a wall. What unites this music-loving motley crew is a fascination with the endless parade of characters that makes its way through the front door every day of the week, most bringing in their unwanted discs to sell or trade.
"Used CDs are our bloodline," says Hanover, although the employees know a few titles they would no longer like to see. With more than 30 copies of The Sign from Ace of Base and nearly as many of Garth Brooks' No Fences, back stock has become a fascinatingly humorous dilemma.
"We get a huge amount of retarded soundtracks," says Muncy, before she takes a break for some coffee and a cigarette. "We had one old guy bring in the entire 2 Live Crew collection 'cause he said his mom was pissed at him," chimes in Meyers. Yet it's exactly that madcap diversity of what they decide to buy that enlivens the store's selection.
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"I don't get to shop here as often as I'd like," says Lee, a customer who would only give his first name. "When I do come in, either they have exactly what I want or else I find five other things I need."
Employees speak of customers spending up to six hours in the store at a time and some who spend up to $500 a week. There is a customer affectionately referred to as "Stalker John" and the aforementioned "Sheeba," who often comes into the store incognito thinking she might get a better deal.
Together the customers and employees make CD Source a true independent, a chaotic mess of a store where that elusive, out-of-print treasure waits for discovery.
Cooper Taylor, the newest employee, who just finished his second week, sums up the experience in classically slacker terms. "When there's something to do, it's a fun place to be."