I'm writing this in response to this article, and your requests for testimonials.
I'm just speaking for myself here, and my cohort Pinkie has her own tales of record-store lurkings, but I just wanted to let you know that I am that rare creature: A girl, chatty and sociable, who hangs out in record stores. I stopped to think about this recently, and realized I've done this since I was in high school. I've never once been in a kerfuffle with a music retail drone (though I did snap at a boy in a comic book store once who was being a total mysogynist asshat, but that was years ago...). To the contrary, and this is just one example: I remember disarming one extremely cute clerk at a store in my hometown once -- drumming my recently-acquired acrylic nail set on the glass display counter and moistening my rouged lips -- slowly, mind you -- at occasional intervals, in what I hoped was a sexy affectation, patiently explaining to him the merits of mid-career Roxy Music. It worked. I was drunk on that power for days.
There were other stores; the five independents (not to mention the Tower Records outlet) within walking distance of the University of Texas in the mid-90's (they're all gone now). All the boys (because yes, no girls worked in the shops, though there was occasionally one behind the counter at the Tower, but she just ran the register, the "real" experts were always at the customer service counter) knew my name, and they'd always pull out something from behind the counter that they'd saved for me, as most were used-CD and record emporiums with an extremely high turnover of merchandise. I never thought I was special, but I guess maybe I was? Had I tamed the savage music retail beast with my eager smiles and encyclopedic brain?
[interlude: spoon -- anything you want, which namechecks austin's much-mourned sound exchange]
These days, I'm lucky to be able to shop at two great stores in Austin, End of an Ear and Waterloo -- and there's others where I'm equally comforable: Friends of Sound, DJ Dojo, BackSpin Records, Snake Eyes Vinyl. End of an Ear is my favorite -- the owners formerly had another store that was also a hallowed haunt, 33 Degrees, where clerks would lovingly mock your purchases and rib your sub-par taste. I stop at End of an Ear for no reason and every reason as it's very near my house -- and the highest honor was afforded me the other Saturday afternoon, when the owner asked me to recommend a few items for a customer with very specific needs. I felt like I'd been initiated into some special secret organization.
I also occasionally shop at record shops in NYC. I love Kim's and Downtown Music Gallery and Etherea, but mostly I only go to Other Music on Sundays. See, an old friend is usually "the asshole at the door" Sunday afternoons, and since I'm not a regular there yet, I need the other clerks to see that I know him so they'll take me seriously. You may laugh, but such are the subtleties of music store clerk relations. (Of course, you can also go the route of buying some weird, rare vinyl, or asking them to get something cherished out of the case or off a high shelf, but then you have to be ready to discuss said item. And possibly defend it. And possibly be ready to stay in said shop for a few hours whilst doing so.)
I have a point here: It seems to me that the independent record store's death has been widely reported for years, but still they manage persist. The death knells came from MTV, the big box store, now it's iTunes and illegal downloading. Yet the stalwarts hang on, thank goodness. Then again, I know I'm just lucky to live in a city that can support a goodly number of music retailers. Yes, I download and can chat music esoterica with people around the world, but nothing, nothing, nothing will ever replace holding a long-sought after record in my hands, discussing it with someone who, yes, will gladly take my money and enable my bad habit, but who is also a fellow collector, a fellow total super music nerd.
Long live music retail, may it not fade too soon.