Last night, we stood in the Midas parking lot on South Avenue, and watched our memories burn. We stood and watched as Sound Station, and the surrounding businesses, became ashes. What seemed like the last row of family-owned businesses in Westfield, is now gone.
And as we stood with Bob Larsen, owner of Sound Station, we just didn't know what to say. I stared through the shattered front window at the horror movie mask they had propped up on a display behind the counter. It used to have my best friend's decorated graduation cap on top of it.
As the firemen set up a steady stream from the front of the store to the back of it, battling flames on the roof, I remembered what Sound Station still means to so many of us. Sound Station still firmly believed, as did all of its customers, that the local music scene is not dead. That going into the store to talk music, get suggestions, and walk out with a new CD to add to your collection is still important.
Sound Station fostered customers who still loved cracking open a fresh CD, and hearing something new. The store supported passion, their own and that of the local music scene. They hosted concerts in the store, featuring local musicians. They had a local music table, they took no profits from it. Sound Station was the last of its kind.
Above all, for my generation, Sound Station had become a second home. We would hang out in the store for hours, talking to Bob and his wife Liz about everything and nothing, even when Bob knew we had absolutely no money to buy anything. We were dubbed "Sound Station Army."
They became mentors to us from a very young age, and very quickly became our friends and parts of our families. I would drop off Christmas cookies when they worked on Christmas Eve, they attended our high school and college graduation parties, they have invited me into their home for dinner and movie nights. Bob and Liz have been there for me during the roughest parts of my life.
We stood on South Avenue, watching Sound Station burn, and suddenly we were mourning the loss of what seemed like a family member. That store was as much a part of our lives as Bob and Liz are.
This morning, as I write this, I'm feeling a bit of an emotional hangover. But it is now time to help. Every business that was destroyed last night has a story behind it. Rocky the Tailor and Sam the Barber have been there for years, I can't remember a time without them. Unmasked seems like it had just opened.
But as we remember, we must think to the future, and figure out ways to help these people re-build their lives. We don't know what will come of that building, but we do know there are people and families behind those store names that are now feeling lost.
Many Sound Station customers already have the wheels turning, putting plans into motion to help re-build the store. If anyone has any ideas, feel free to comment on this article, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can try to put you in contact with the right people.
People can donate at http://www.indiegogo.com/helpsoundstation. Donors can name their own price, and as the fundraiser continues, we will have different "perks" set up that donors can claim. Right now, donors can claim a hand-designed flyer by Liz from the last Sound Station show. We will be raising money from now until Record Store Day 2012, which falls on April 21. Your contributions will go straight to Bob Larsen, Liz Walsh, and the relief of their business after this disaster.