CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The oldest music store in Charlotte, Brodt Music, closed its doors for the last time Tuesday evening, after nearly 80 years in business.
The 13,000-square-foot Brodt building on Commonwealth Avenue was home to pieces of sheet music by the hundreds of thousands and countless customers of all backgrounds.
But like the video stores, bookstores and other music stores before it, Brodt (pronounced “Brought”) saw the ease of online shopping squash in-store sales.
Customers slowly began to forgo chats with staffers and test runs on the in-store piano.
“People didn’t have to come look through music; they could see it online,” said store owner Lee Northcutt. “It gave the customer direct access to the publishers, which they didn’t have before.”
And when the economy soured, gone were the days of robust budgets for music programs at schools and churches, which made up 70 percent of Brodt’s customer base. Most of what they bought now had to come out-of-pocket.
Friends and customers steadily streamed through the Brodt doors Tuesday, as they came to say goodbye to the old building.
“Some of them teared up,” said Northcutt.
Brodt was founded in 1934 by Madison, Wis., native Cecil Brodt. He came to Charlotte on the suggestion of his wife, Gladys, who grew up in Marshall, N.C. The pair ran the shop together for years.
For two decades, the store was at 108 West Fifth Street – where the Hearst Tower now stands. In 1953, the shop moved to the nondescript red-brick building on Commonwealth Ave., where it’s been for sixty years.
In 1992, Northcutt, now 48, bought the store and building from Gladys Brodt.
At the time, the shop sold instruments and sheet music. But when big-box stores began to steal market share, Northcutt switched to just music.
In 2011, facing declining sales and mounting debt, Northcutt waffled over whether to sell the building and move to a smaller space.
To ebb the bleeding, Northcutt eliminated Saturday hours and cut staff. At the store’s height – in the ’90s – he had 32 employees on payroll.
When Northcutt closed the doors Tuesday, he had three.
Though the storefront will no longer be used, Northcutt says he will continue to sell off his current inventory on the website, www.brodtmusic.com.
Northcutt is serving as the interim music director for Myers Park Presbyterian Church, a congregation with a rich musical history.
“Instead of selling music, I’ll be making music,” he said.