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RSM's WORKPLACE, 1984-1999

After 24 Years

by Christine Letts
Montclair Times Staff
Thurs 13 Jan 2000

Mike Mendlovitz remembers as a teenager that he and his father, then a law professor, would frequently stop at Crazy Rhythms music store on their way home as a matter of habit. Mendlovitz bought his first rock albums, "Country Joe and the Fish" and "Question Mark and the Mysterians" at Crazy Rhythms, he said.

Joe Provenzano, who opened the store in 1976, would always know exactly what albums to hold behind the counter for him, Mendlovitz said.

"Everybody knew everybody and Joe knew everybody's taste. You can't get that anywhere else," he said.

But for the past few weeks, Mendlovitz, 42, has been helping Provenzano sell the bulk of his inventory, an eclectic collection ranging from jazz to reggae. After 24 years of selling the music that many consider classics, Provenzano has decided to close Crazy Rhythms for good on Sunday, Jan. 16.

"It's killing me. I feel like I'm losing a part of my childhood," Mendlovitz said. "It was like a club.

"Joe had a big impact on this town personally and culturally. I have a lot of good memories. I'll miss him. I really will."

Provenzano said that from changes in the music business to a decline in business in Montclair's downtown business district, sales in his shop have been on the decrease for the last three years.

"I would thank everyone who patronized the store since we opened in 1976 spring," Provenzano said before explaining why he decided to close the business.

Sitting in his office at the back of the store, Provenzano rattled off a multitude of reasons why his modest music shop will no longer be a fixture on Bloomfield Avenue.

"The music business has basically become a business of disposable music, where you have a short life-span of hits," Provenzano said. "It accounts for 70 percent of the hits. Thirty percent is catalog."

After newly merged record companies increased the prices of CDs and cassettes, Provenzano stopped selling hit records and tried to change his venue by selling rarities and bargains, but buyers are not looking for the "older stuff," he said.

The music retail business has also felt the bite of the Internet with sites such as CD.Now that lure a sizable chunk of the market, he said. Many teenagers copy or "burn" their CDs because most new ones cost upward of $15, he said.

"The retail business is not ever going to be what it was," he said. "Within five to 10 years the music business will be totally different. Many labels will sell the records directly over the Internet and open their own chains of music stores."

Another reason his music store has failed to sustain through the changing times is the lack of businesses in the downtown area, he said.

"The downtown area is not really a viable business district anymore for small shops, especially those who rely on high-volume sales," Provenzano said.

Since the "demise of Hahne's department store" about 10 years ago, the downtown district has no draw, a problem made worse by an insufficient amount of parking lots and a two-hour parking limit, he said.

"In the last 10 years, we've lost thousands of customers because they don't want to get a ticket," he said. "I don't think Montclair is doing the right thing to revive downtown. You have an anti-business township here in Montclair."

Montclair, once a haven for consumers, has also become a "commuting town," with residents shopping at malls, on the Internet, or near the workplace.

Montclair must provide a full line of stores, an alternative to going to the mall, to survive, he said.

"I think the town has to step in and make it more shopper-friendly," Provenzano said. "Hopefully, things will change in this town for the better."

Rhonda Peters, president of the Montclair Chamber of Commerce, said she was surprised at the news that Provenzano will soon close Crazy Rhythms.

"He is one of the stewards that has survived," Peters said.

Peters agreed that downtown Montclair needed an anchor store, but she disagreed with Provenzano's comments that lack of parking had turned shoppers away.

"Parking has always been an issue in town, but it doesn't deter people from coming to town to get what they want," she said.

Peters also noted that Crazy Rhythms is strategically placed near a parking lot and in front of a bus stop.

Crazy Rhythms has been an oasis and virtually the only record store in Montclair, she said.

Despite the loss of the store, Provenzano intends to remain in the music business.

Provenzano said he is mulling over the idea of selling his collectibles and rare music over the Internet.

"To compete in the music business, you have to become specialized, which is what I am going to do," he said. "I'm also looking at jobs, but I have no certain job in mind."

When Provenzano first opened Crazy Rhythms, he specialized in jazz and expanded to an array of other genres of music to meet customer demands. Over the years, he reported steady sales growth and, in a 1993 Billboard magazine interview, Provenzano said he expected to reach the $1.5 million mark.

Provenzano said he will "miss talking to the people that shopped here. I made many friends here in Montclair."

Grandpa R. Stevie (laid-off May '99), peering in, coming home after a band rehearsel (past midnight) December 1999

"Going Out Of Business Sale
after 24 years"



C A R V A L H OV O L Z 2002 Sept 2001 P3 P4 P5 1985