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Shake, Rattle & Read Closing Marks The End Of Uptown As We Know It

By Michelle Meywes Kopeny in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 17, 2016 7:54PM

Hang around Ric Addy long enough and you'll hear a story about rock royalty. He's met David Bowie, Keith Richards, Chuck Berry and so many more, and has the autographs to prove it.

Many of these icons have been customers at Addy's Uptown record shop, Shake, Rattle & Read. It’s become something of a cultural institution over the last 30 years, packed with records, books, pop culture relics and just about any music magazine back-issue.

Originally a bookstore called The Book Box, the shop has been in Addy's family for 50 years. When Addy bought it from his sister and brother-in-law in 1986, he changed the name, added records and never looked back.

The family business has run its course, though. This spring, Addy will close the door for a final time when he retires.

"Muhammad Ali stopped into Downtown Records at Rush & Walton 12/26/78 - I was the night manager."
Last month the store had its last sale and anniversary party, featuring an in-house performance from Addy’s own band, The Pogo Ponies. At these annual events, it's tradition for Addy to discount items one percent for each year the store has been open. This year, that meant 50 percent off almost everything (new records went for 25 percent off), but the crowd gathered more for the nostalgia than to save a buck.

Addy’s been selling vinyl since he moved to the city in 1971; in the early '90s, he co-owned the short-lived store Rave Records inside the Metro. He’s also played in assorted bands and DJed punk rock all over town. (He spoke fondly about being the Friday night DJ at The Riviera when it was a club in the '80s.)

Through it all, he’s been a self-described collector, but he's letting most of his records go for this next phase of his life, which he's planning to spend in sunny Florida.

“I’d like to leave and not take anything with me, just start fresh,” he said. “I’m taking pictures of the stuff and documenting it, but I mean, how long do you hold onto stuff for?”

His personal collection—“the archives,” as his friends call it—is for sale. Well, almost all of it is, at least. When we asked Addy if there was anything he wouldn't part with, he only came up with three items: a Keith Richards autograph, a copy of “The Greatest” signed by Muhammad Ali and a copy of Aldous Huxley’s books The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell signed by The Doors’ Jim Morrison.

"I met Jim Morrison in San Francisco where he was doing a radio interview—I took along my 25 cent ex-library thrift store book because I knew that is where he got the name for his band. Ended up spending the rest of the afternoon with him & his girlfriend Pam then saw him in concert that evening."
There were several factors that prompted Addy to close up shop. The advent of the internet has hurt business. Though some people still appreciate physical records, services like Spotify, Pandora and Amazon make them less necessary.

“They use my store for window shopping,” said Addy as he watched folks come in and walk out without buying anything.

"Keith Richards signed this bar napkin at Biddy Mulligan's June 9, 1986—he was with Chuck Berry, they played together earlier in the day at Blues Fest—we all went to see Dr John that night."
The Uptown neighborhood is also going through a lot of change. Nestled in between the Aragon, Riviera and Uptown Theatre and the Green Mill, Shake, Rattle & Read is in the heart of a popular entertainment district. However, upcoming CTA renovations will keep the Wilson and Lawrence Red Line stops closed for years at a time. While the upgrades will ultimately be positive for the neighborhood, it’s a long time to be put on hold.

“I really believe the neighborhood’s gonna change...I don’t have another 5 to 7 years to wait,” said Addy, who just celebrated his 64th birthday. “I don’t want to be the 70 year-old guy selling rock records behind the counter.”

It truly is, as Addy said, “the end of an era.” Not only the closing of his store, but the rapid disappearance of stores and industries like his across the nation. We’re part of a rapidly shifting landscape where access to information and entertainment is available at the click of a button, often for free. In many ways it’s good, but the moment of transition is also one of loss.

Even in retirement, though, Addy will keep selling records. He plans to maintain a personal shop on Ebay. Still, he's looking to sell the Shake, Rattle & Read name along with everything inside the store, from the inventory to signage and bookshelves.

Though the end is bittersweet, he still said, “I’ve had fun with it from day one and I’m still having fun as I close it.”