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Johnstown's f.y.e. closing; customers lament

Johnstown's f.y.e. closing; customers lament

Employees say they'll miss music store
Johnstown's f.y.e. closing; customers lament
Sawyer Fredericks made an appearance at the Johnstown f.y.e. store in June.
Photographer: Gazette file photo

When Chris Haslun’s children were little he started a tradition with them: Every week they would get dinner at the Far East Chinese Buffet on Comrie Avenue in Johnstown. From there they would head next door to the f.y.e. store in the same shopping center and spend hours browsing the racks together.

“Once a week we’d go to the Chinese buffet right there then spend a couple hours at f.y.e.,” said Haslun, whose son and daughter are now 18 and 14, respectively. “The kids and I have been going to that store for probably since its opening; they were real little when it opened.”

But that tradition can only continue for another three months, at least as far as the Johnstown f.y.e. is concerned. Johnstown employees of the entertainment retail chain have been told by the company that their last day of business would be March 30.
Store employees told The Daily Gazette that someone — they don’t know who — bought the space they’re currently in at 213 N. Comrie Ave. and that their lease is not being renewed. The outpouring on Facebook was immense, with dozens of people lamenting the news and writing how much the store means to them.

And while such a strong response may seem odd for a retail chain that essentially sells CDs and DVDs, the f.y.e. in Johnstown is more akin to a local music venue and social hub than a store that simply sells music and movies.
Haslun said what he loves about the Johnstown f.y.e. is the helpfulness of the staff and the feeling of community that’s grown up around the store.

“You get to know them on a first-name basis and you kind of get used to see each other, we’re going to miss that,” he said. “It’s just a real sad thing … there’s a lot of people in the community that do love that store.”
Haslun is not alone in feeling this way about the store.

Joseph Benton has also patronized the store since it opened in 2006, and said it’s a great place to find obscure and older music that otherwise could only be found online.

“I go there alot to buy older movies and older CDs which other stores don’t have,” he said. “They’re the only store that has vinyl records that you can get around here.”

Benton said the Johnstown f.y.e. is a unique store that holds a special place in the community, and will be missed when it’s gone.

“Before f.y.e. was there they didn’t have a place like that where you can buy movies and video games and vinyl records,” said Benton. “I’ll be very sad to see it go.”
He added, “Now I’ll have to order stuff online, and it’s not the same.”
Tara Cotton Byrum wrote via email that she moved to Johnstown from South Jersey three years ago, and in that time, “I fell in love with f.y.e., I just love browsing the store.”

Byrum, who described herself as a “huge fandoms geek,” said she can always find what she’s looking for in the store and has bought numerous birthday and Christmas gifts there for her children over the years.

“They are the only place I can find Supernatural, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Batman and The Walking Dead merchandise all in one place,” she said. “Their prices are always more than reasonable and I always find things I want to buy that I didn’t even know I wanted until I saw it in their store.”

Byrum also talked about the friendly atmosphere of the place, and how recently she went into the store with less than 10 minutes before closing, in her pajamas, and the staff were as friendly as ever.

“Not one employee looked at me funny for wearing pajamas. They were so pleasant and nice even though I showed up right before closing time,” Byrum said. “It has an amazingly friendly atmosphere and I just love it. I am deeply saddened by the loss of f.y.e. in my hometown. It will always hold a place in my heart as one of the best stores in town.”

Heather Reppenhagen, the store’s general manager, said the eight employees at the Johnstown location have worked hard over the years to build a sense of community and familiarity around the store.

“Everybody that comes in knows us by name and we know them,” said Reppenhagen. “They just feel so special that we recognize them and know their names.”

There’s also been a certain amount of innovation at the store that sets them apart, which f.y.e.’s corporate parent Trans World Entertainment Corp., based in Albany, have let them run with, she said.

Soon after the store opened, Reppenhagen began asking local artists to perform a set inside the store, and regular live music sets have been a mainstay there ever since. Last year they featured breakout local artist Sawyer Fredericks, who won the eighth season of “The Voice” and has gone on to national and international acclaim.

“We’ve been pretty much the only f.y.e. to consistently feature local artists,” said Travis Munson, the senior assistant manager at the store. “She’s not going to give herself the credit but [Reppenhagen] is at the driving force behind building a community around this place.”

Reppenhagen said she grew up watching movies that featured iconic record stores and tried to bring the same vibe to Johnstown’s f.y.e.

“I’m very passionate about music in general and I grew up watching Empire Records and High Fidelity, those kind of movies, and you saw all those really cool record stores,” said Reppenhagen. “So when I came here I always had that idea.”
Munson said the outpouring of love for the store online made the staff realize just how much they’re loved in the community.
“With all the comments and the different things we’ve seen online, it’s been very eye opening, the impact we’ve had on the community, it’s really painted a picture,” he said.

Reppenhagen said she’s looking into whether it’s possible to open another f.y.e. in the area, but there’s nothing concrete yet and such a proposal would need the blessing of Trans World. A company executive did not return a request for comment.
Both Reppenhagen and Munson said what they’ll miss most about the store are the customers and the f.y.e. family that’s grown up around it.

“I feel more for the customers than I do for myself. I’m out of a job but I feel for the people who won’t be able to find that CD or DVD they want, their favorite music or movie,” said Reppenhagen. “I’m just dreading all our regular customers coming in and having to break the news.”

Munson said all of the employees have gotten to know each other and are genuinely friends outside of work.

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