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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

If Nike Can Just Do It, So Can Tower Records

A new economy brings new cultural icons that often fill a void: where there was a basement with the smell of rot creeping out of the broken windows you find an elegant cafe.

But sometimes competition evicts the artifacts of a previous life. Some of these losses are regretful, if only as nostalgia.

A few weeks ago in this column I mourned the long and painful demise of the Saigon cafe, a token of St. Petersburg counterculture. Another important cultural institution, Melodiya record store No. 2, popularly known as Dvoika ("No. 2"), died a quick and sudden death this summer. Within weeks, before people like me could realize what was going on, it was closed, remodeled, and reopened as ... a Nike store.

For me as much as for many of my friends, Dvoika was a regular, almost imperative stopover in our daily routine moving around the city. Though few interesting records were produced by the state label Melodiya in those days, each one was precious. Miracles were scarce, however: Imports were rare, haphazard, and as a rule not very inspiring.

The death of Dvoika was in many ways a natural one, albeit somewhat sad. I say "Good riddance" to its totally unprofessional display of merchandize, to its faceless, aloof and ignorant saleswomen.

It is gone, replaced by a burgeoning scene of new private record and CD shops. The owner of a small kiosk in the hallway of the Philharmonic will share with you subtle differences between Yevgeny Mravinsky's and Herbert von Karajan's interpretations of Brahms. A punk mannequin will startle you at the door to Nirvana, an alternative music store at 10 Pushkinskaya. Here you can fish out a rare record of an obscure Californian garage band and spend hours chatting shop, listening to music and meeting people. A small one-room store in the Rock Club at 13 Ulitsa Rubinsteina offers all there is in Russian rock.

But all these places, warm and welcoming as they are, would be perfect supplements to the nitty-gritty of straightforward, mainstream commercial records stores. But they are just not here. Where can I go and buy the newest within weeks of its release? Where can I walk in and without having to fish in bins find alphabetically shelved classic recordings of Shostakovich and Mozart, Frank Zappa and the Animals, Count Basie and Miles Davis? Where is a Russian Tower Records or a Virgin Megastore? Why did they not come to fill in the gap left by the timely deceased Dvoika? I cannot believe that where Christian Dior, Sony, Reebok, Nike and whatnot are successfully doing business, record shops cannot. A growing market is there, even if it is not completely developed.

I'll go easy. Maybe it will all come eventually, a step at a time. In the meantime let's relax at Nirvana.