Checking in with Criminal Records owner Eric Levin was a bit like a hospital visit. But, we’re happy to report CR is out of danger and on the up. The 20-year-old Atlanta record shop was under threat of closing after accumulating $150,000 in debt, Levin announced in September, with a November 1 deadline to pay up. CR got by though with a little help from its friends. A boost in sales helped Levin stay afloat and pay off some debt, as did a string of fundraising events. Its biggest by far was with Orange Amplifiers, who helped put on a show with Kelly Hogan, Patterson Hood, a reunited Magnapop and two local groups: the Carnivores and the Back Pockets. “I learned that Atlanta cared,” Levin tells CMJ. “I really just thought I was going to have a going-out-of-business sale and, y’know, some nice remembrances and some goodbyes.”
Changes will come to CR following its resuscitation. “It seems prudent that we shrink,” says Levin, adding that they’ll have to put in-stores, comic books, toys and candy on the chopping block. The debt problems are also not completely behind CR. “We’ve come nowhere close to raising the necessary money,” Levin says, but “the enthusiasm for our survival and the ownership that Atlanta has taken in the process has been inspiring.” Levin also continues to suffer personal money woes after maxing out credit cards, missing rent and sales tax payments just to keep the business open. “My personal financial problems are no different than anyone else,” he explains. “I just lost a ton of money having a big-ass record store and a couple of coffee shops.”
CR’s woes came on after the store rapidly expanded in 2009. In a space three times the size of its last location, CR soon found itself too big to support and perhaps too big to rescue. Levin at the time had also bought a local coffee business. He ran headlong into debt with seemingly no way out. But, in two months, with local support, CR avoided closing. “With the spirit of the community behind me, I’m confident that the legacy will continue on in some form, with or without me,” says Levin.