Cutlers: Gone For Good!

Gone for good, under the auspices of "retirement" is the record store which began when the technology of recorded music first became available.   

I bought my first vinyl record from Cutler's Records back in 1996.  It was the "Around the World" single by Daft Punk.  I still have it somewhere in my collection, and there were many more records to follow.  I bought my fair share of CD's there, as well.  I watched them move, in 1999, to a smaller building next door from their expansive, carpeted home with wooden floors that creaked when you stepped in certain spots.  I saw their arcade go from almost 2 dozen games to just under a half dozen when they moved.  

In 1997, after working at Claire's Cornercopia on a busy Sunday at line cook, I went to Cutlers to play Galaga and got my lifetime high of 1,020,000 points (approximately), pretty much never to take the game seriously again.  I made friends with just about everyone that worked there in the timeframe of those 15 years, including Tracey who is now a tattoo artist at Lucky Soul in Woodbridge, Kyle Mullins who was a Daily Cafe patron and great person to talk to, Andre from Murdervan, RyKow the DJ, and Mark Winters AKA "DJ Remarkable."
The shop is closing in a couple of days, and that's just how it goes, and it's labelled not as a "going out of business" but a "Retirement Celebration" which definitely sounds better than "Going Out Of Business," but it's true.  Phil Cutler is tired of selling records.  Much like the York Square Cinema, which closed in the mid-2000's, Cutler's Records has done many things in its power to fail.

Granted, the record industry has changed throughout the years numerous times, from Vinyl to Cassettes to CD's, and now more music is sold more virtually through online file purchasing than physically.   I recommended that the store sell record players and tape decks and things of that nature after the music recording industry suffered a big blow with the advent of file sharing, back in 1998.  It wasn't until the last couple years that the store began to do just that.  Instead, for the last 8 years or so, they sold gag items and trinkets like as if it were Spencers, which naturally frightened the otherwise available clientele of Yale students walking by, day after day.  Walking through a barrage of non-music related merchandise, like underpants you are supposed to wear on your head, clearly was an insult to not just the intelligence of the students but nearly any human being at all.  Edible band-aids have nothing to do with music, and I'll never understand why Phil Cutler didn't sell perhaps videogames, or something profitable.  I'm not sure how the store paid its rent for the past five years, to be honest, and neither do the people who worked there!  But for some reason, even when they had weeks where every day averaged about 10 customers, half of which were there just to browse, the store remained open.  That's something nobody can explain.  Several years ago, the separated classical section was shut down.  That section of the store became Enclave.

By comparison, here's an example of other ways this store could have ended its legacy.  Baybrook Bicycles used to be on College Street, across from the Shubert Theater.  It was owned by a man who had another store in West Haven, and operated both shops under the same name.  One day, he got tired of operating both shops.  What did he do?  He gave the shop to its dedicated employee mechanic, Bob, who now manages the shop as "College Street Cycles"

(left: a picture of Cutlers on the last day it was open at it's original location in the old building).
(October 1999).  
No such luck for the Bob who worked at Cutlers for his entire adult life.  Instead, Bob will work at the teeshirt company, Campus Customs, which prints clothing.  He'll be working for the same boss, who has found making teeshirts to be more profitable.  I'm not sure where the other workers are going. 

Says Liz Theis:  " This was my first record store. I could always count on walking into Cutler's and chatting it up with Kyle Mullins about any ol' thing and walking out with something he'd recommended. That was the superior way to find out about new music because you were taking a chance, and if you liked it, well then it was YOURS."

Regardless that other genres of music are subject to theft, in the nineties Phil made the decision to keep all of the Hip Hop records behind a glass case.  Fearing theft, but not afraid of providing evidence of bias in his approach, rap was the only genre that received this treatment.  That never changed, even during the years when people were not stealing anything, nor buying anything, either!

(pictured:  At one point, RyKow, a DJ, would cut out the heads from magazines and "remix" rap record album covers which were on display behind the counter.) (2005)

In about 2003, when Hull's Hobbies existed (not the art store, but a hardware store closer to the location of the new Rudy's on Chapel and Howe), they sold toy trains.  Before that store closed, I bought several of their last ones with the New Haven train logo.  I kept a few in my room, and I brought one over to Cutler's so they could put it on a shelf next to other New Haven memorabilia.  Today, 2 days before "retirement," Phil was holding it in his hand, looking at it.  Bob was there.  I said, "Hey, I think that was mine."

Phil looked at the bottom side of it, which had a sticker where I had written the address of where I grew up.  "Oh, look at that."   He proceeded to walk out of the building with it.  I said, "Where are you going with it?" 

"Where am I going?  I'm going to put it in my office."

If you want to hear some prank calls from the late 1990's check these!