Gramophone Video says farewell
Published 6:14 pm, Wednesday, January 5, 2011
When sports stars, celebrities or politicians retire, they often imagine going out in style and on their own terms. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Jack Trifero, owner of Gramophone Video, is finally closing his doors Jan. 31 but he is not happy about the conclusion to his story.
"I am so upset that I am being pushed out of business by a 501c3," Trifero said. He is referring to the New Canaan Public Library.
"We have a great business model. I think we have Netflix, RedBox and Blockbuster figured out. Every competitor who has come into town with paying customers, we have beat," Trifero said. "But I cannot compete with free."
A recent study done in the summer of 2010 by the Online Computer Library Center, a non-profit national library cooperative, reveals that libraries loan out as many DVDs each day as Netflix and more than RedBox. Their statistics show that citizens borrow around 2.1 million DVDs each day at the library while they rent nearly 2.2 million from Netflix and 1.1 million from RedBox.
Connecticut itself is circulating around 927,000 movies in public libraries according to a recent Hartford Courant piece by Kim Velsey. Velsey does indicate however that the movies have a very high circulation rate according to Connecticut State Library statistician Tom Newman. So while movies may not make of most of what the library has to offer, it still accounts for around 27 percent of library circulation.
The trend seems to be true in New Canaan as well. The library's DVD collection is more than 4,300 and its own survey, conducted over the summer, indicates that many New Canaanites' primary purpose for going to the library is to borrow movies. According to the survey, 63.2 percent of respondents said they go to the library with the intention to borrow films. It would seem that the free model is very attractive.
"New Canaan Library has circulated feature films since 1983 as part of our mission to provide a wide variety of content to our community at no charge," Library Director Alice Knapp said. "In addition to movies, we also offer books, music CDs, books on tape, periodicals, magazines, research materials and many other types of content covering cultural, educational, and informational and entertainment purposes ensuring there is something for everyone at the library."
Still, libraries around the country have been doing this for a very long time without many complaints from retailers. Trifero believes that not many people have stood up in the past to let their voice be heard.
"This culture of free that has inhabited everyone sounds great in the beginning," Trifero said. "But I do not think people realize the damage it can do."
Trifero has posted letters and e-mails on Gramophone Video's display window highlighting his concerns and what he did to try and address those issues. The e-mails displayed include replies from former Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, First Selectman Jeb Walker and various other town and library officials.
However, despite his efforts and disdain for how things are ending, Trifero says he needs a break.
"I'm exhausted," he said. "It is a phenomenal brand and we have a phenomenal clientele. We have just hit some tough times."
The shop had fallen behind on rent according to housing division documents from the Norwalk Superior Court. Cody Real Estate, Trifero's landlord, is owed more than $35,000 in rent. The shop was originally meant to be vacated by Oct. 19 but Trifero received an extension through Jan. 31.
"I have had a great relationship with my landlord, the Codys," Trifero said. "They have helped me succeed for all the years the store has been around and I thank them for that."
The store began as a record shop in 1973. It was not until 1986 that a video store was also opened in addition to the music aspect. Three years ago, the music and video store were combined into the current and final location at 99 Main St.
Trifero himself grew up in the business. His father was an employee of Capital Records in New York City and Trifero spent much of his time going to recording sessions and absorbing the creative culture as a child.
"Over the years, more than 700 people have been employed by Gramophone," Trifero said. "They have grown up and become part of the same creative culture that I grew up with in New York."
In terms of his plans for the future, Trifero plans to firmly place himself at the tables of conversation regarding town issues and challenges.
"I very much want to be part of the discussion," he said. "I may also get into real estate."
So even though Gramophone Video is closing its doors, it does not seem like Trifero is going anywhere.