When I want to tell people where I live in Sacramento, I use the Tower Theater as a landmark. It’s an old art deco art cinema and restaurant built at the site of the 1940s drugstore that sold 45-rmp records and launched the business that became Tower Records.
Tower was a treasured Sacramento institution, a local business that went global, made money, got cool. As recently as my arrival 11 years ago, its West Sacramento headquarters was an important hub in the worldwide pop music pantheon, a place where aging hippies with pony tails would cut off the neckties of visitors who didn’t know the company dress code.
And now, Tower is no more.
Owners made a lot of excuses for the declining business over the years. My favorite was the contention that there just wasn’t as much good music to sell nowadays. Much of the analysis now talks about how the company was killed by the internet.
But that’s not quite right, of course. What killed Tower was its inability or unwillingness to adapt to the internet.
The Sac Bee has the story here, including this observation:
"If you look at Tower Records over the last 30 years, this is a company that never really changed," said George Whalin, a national retail consultant who grew up near the Tower store on Broadway in Sacramento. "Look at Russ' history -- he's a store guy."
– Howard Weaver