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Manifest Records & Tapes to Close

Independent Chain To Shutter 5 Remaining Carolina Stores

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After three years of declining sales, the Carolinas-based independent music retail chain, Manifest Records & Tapes, will cease operations by April -- including those at the profitable Charlotte location on South Boulevard, which is expected to close by "mid-to-late February," according to founder and owner Carl Singmaster.

With the Charlotte closing, 17 full-time employees will be forced to seek new jobs; two part-time employees were let go after the staff was told a week ago Monday.

"With more music being offered exclusively through Internet sites like iTunes and mass merchants like Best Buy, we were unable to make up the lost sales," Singmaster, 45, said.

Singmaster opened Manifest 19 years ago in a 750-square foot space in Columbia, SC, eventually expanding to seven stores throughout the Carolinas. The Charlotte store opened in 1999, and was an immediate hit with local music consumers. It has been voted the city's "Best CD Store" by CL's readers -- and by wide margins -- since opening. Though the store has turned a profit each year, Singmaster decided not to sign a long-term lease renewal at the store's current over-sized location -- or move to a smaller one -- after looking at current music industry trends.

He said he would accept any offers to buy the remaining stock and fixtures (for roughly $600,000, he said), and seemed to be of two minds as to whether someone else could keep the store afloat financially.

"There's a very viable market in Charlotte," he said, citing the lack of competition Manifest faced from smaller independent stores. "But in this environment, people with money are not investing in music retail because of all that they've read.

"I could probably run a sub-standard store and feed my family, but that does not fulfill my passion for the music," he added.

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