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Phil's Records Returns to Covington, Opens Friday

"I think we've always been relevant but the base to sell to has shrunk. If you still want to patronize a record store there's a few really nice ones but unfortunately, the simple fact is, there's so many easier ways to get music."

Phil's Music & Memories has become a somewhat redundant name for a shop. For many, purchasing music in a store is nothing but a memory. But owner Phil Breen, who just moved his shop from Cold Spring to Latonia, is there to cater to the crowd that enjoys the experiences of what music used to sound like and the only way it used to be bought.

Breen also knows that that market has shrunk considerably. "There were times when any given week I'd sell fifty, seventy-five, or a hundred of a release," Breen said. "I haven't sold fifty of Adele since it's been out and that's the number one CD of the decade."

"It's nothing like the old days. It's ridiculously simple that it's completely changed the game to where any simpleton can get any song they want for pretty much nothing."

Breen's store opens its doors again Friday after closing its Cold Spring location at the end of December. It's the last location of the small company that he built to include six shops in the 1990's. Back then, Phil's Records stores were also Ticketmaster outlets for concert-goers. Breen started in the music retail business in 1979 and opened the first store of his own in 1989. He's been located in Fort Thomas, Fort Mitchell, Erlanger, and Cold Spring. This is Breen's second go-round in Latonia.

"I bought out a bookstore. It was 9,600 square feet and too expensive to maintain," he said. The high cost of rent, ironically, is what brings him back to the old neighborhood. The new location is a much more modest 1,400 square feet and better fits Breen's budget then the old place on US 27 in Cold Spring. His friend owns the Latonia Klingenberg's Hardware location and brought him in to check out the space next door.

"The reality is, it's time to downsize," Breen said. "Klingenberg's is an old friend and he said it's going to be small, but affordable and it's going to be nice." The Latonia location will be more dedicated to old school records than CDs. "More than half the space is dedicated to records."

Thousands of records.

"A music fan doesn't come in here if all they want is a song," he said. "I have thousands of guarantee-able records in all styles of music. It's a good old-fashioned record store." He's counting on familiar customers to keep the store going.

"My clientele has gotten older with me. People my age or a little younger, forty on up, still appreciate it more," he said. "We also didn't have the same amount of things to assault our senses or get in our wallets. Now it's YouTube, and video games are more elaborate than movies were made back in the day. There are so many more things that you can do with your money."

Moving a record store from one location to the next is also no easy task. "I'm exhausted," Breen said. "Moving stores is so ridiculously hard. I don't have my sign on the road or on the store yet." Friday's opening will be a low-key affair as Breen prepares for a grander celebration in the spring.

And as the only full-time employee at the store, Breen will be there. "I kind of painted myself into a corner. I know it's what I like," he said. "I'm too old. Honestly, it's what I know, and as they say in poker, I'm all in because I have all this inventory and all this experience and what else is there to do in my advanced age?"

About Phil's Music & Memories: 3914 Winson Avenue, Latonia. 859.441.2514

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Records at Phil's/From Phil's Music & Memories Facebook page