After more than 40 years of selling music in D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, Kemp Mill Records will sell its last record next month, affecting music lovers and local musicians alike.
In the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s Kemp Mill was one of the dominant record store chains in the region with 36 locations.
Shawn Marshall, a Kemp Mill customer for decades, was disappointed to see the going out of business signs in the window of the last location in Prince George’s County.
“You can't hardly find a record store in D.C. anymore,” he said. “They're just going away.”
The Kemp Mill store on Branch Avenue is the last remaining
“This is it,” co-owner Armando Cruz said. “This is the last of the Mohicans, as everyone calls it.”
Cruz and Danny Lamb started as employees in the 1980s and bought the remaining stores 14 years ago. Last month, their landlord told them they were being kicked out to make room for a new tenant willing to sign a long-term lease
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“In the business we’re in, anyone would tell you it would be crazy to sign a 10-year lease,” Lamb said. “We don’t even know if these things are going to be made in 10 years.”
While the closing of Kemp Mill is an end of an era for the record, it’s also a big blow to local musicians, particularly the go-go community.
“This is it,” said Andre Johnson, founding member of go-go band Rare Essence. “It's leaving and it's a really terrible thing.”
Kemp Mill was always a place where local musicians could sell new music without a record contract, he said. The support the store received from musicians is evident from all the autographed posters on display from artists who performed right in the store.
“Kemp Mill was the first one to say, Okay, look, we're just going to dedicate that entire section, so anything go-go you want, it's over there,” Johnson said.
Cruz and Lamb said they’ve always known how much local musicians appreciated the store, but since announcing the closing they’ve realized how important the store is to their customers as well.
“I mean we’ve had people who have come in this store that have actually started crying over this, you know, and it gets like, wow!” Lamb said. “You know, a lot of the folks out here have no other way of getting their music. They’re not into this downloading thing. They want to come in, because we have a lot of older customers. They want to come in. They want to touch it, feel it, see it.”
Customers have until the second week of March to get out to Kemp Mill Records one last time.