SALEM — A Salem institution closed abruptly Wednesday, leaving a hole in the local music scene.
Fred Bramante started Daddy's Junky Music in 1972 with $600, selling guitars and other instruments at a small store in Salem.
The business took off from there, and Bramante went on to open 12 stores in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut, eventually becoming the 14th-largest music retailer in the United States. The business also won numerous awards, including New Hampshire Retailer of the Year in 2005.
But it was hit hard by the economy and Bramante had to shut the doors this week.
"This is one of the worst days of my life," Bramante said. "I'm brokenhearted."
Bramante said he could not get into specifics about why the stores closed because of pending legal issues.
The abrupt closure was a surprise to many, including town planner Ross Moldoff. He said Bramante didn't inform the town the store at 373 S. Broadway was closing.
"It was a quick thing, they informed the employees and that was it," Moldoff said. "They just shut the doors."
Moldoff said he knew Bramante well and used to play basketball with him at the local Boys and Girls Club years ago.
"Freddie is a great guy," Moldoff said yesterday. "It was a great local success story and it's sad to see it go, but that happens a lot in our changing economy."
It means another empty storefront in Salem, something Moldoff has been working hard to fill with new businesses.
"Slowly ,there are businesses coming into vacant stores in Salem," he said. "Lord and Taylor is going into the Macy's building and we've had proposals for a lot of different businesses going into existing stores. We still have a ways to go; there are still a lot of vacancies out there."
Sheila Byrne is the co-owner of The Music Workshop, a music instrument and lesson store one plaza over from where Daddy's used to be.
"We've been competitors with Daddy's Junky Music for 34 years," she said yesterday. "They've been a very worthy competitor. It's unfortunate that between the economy, changes in people's buying habits and the Internet, it was very difficult for them to make a profit."
She said it's been a tough time for retail in general, but the Internet has really hurt businesses like hers and Bramante's.
"People have a perception that the Internet is a better deal and a lot of people are bypassing the brick-and-mortar stores," she said. "The Internet has changed the way people buy."
But The Music Workshop, a privately owned, single-store operation, is smaller and has been able to survive.
"He was a lot larger than us and has a lot more overhead," Byrne said. "You either have to be very, very big, or very small and niched. It's hard to be in the middle range a la Circuit City or Lowe's."
She said she feels sorry for Bramante.
"I know Fred professionally and I think he's a smart businessman," she said. "I think he's probably devastated about what's happened. This was obviously his baby. I know he's concerned about his employees and customers, but there's not a heck of a lot you can do about it."
The Daddy's Junky Music website is blank except for this message: "Daddy's Junky Music Stores has closed for business on October 26th, 2011. Thank you for a wonderful 39 years."
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
• • •
Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.