Ethnic music stores like Kentrikon, Don Pedro’s, and Koko Market struggle to keep up with economy and Internet
From outside, Don Pedro’s Musica Latina on Broadway looks like anything but a music store.
You might guess it’s a country Western emporium. Maybe even a second-hand Sports Authority. Inside its display window, there are soccer balls, wool leopard-print comforters, and dozens of piled up sneaker boxes.
But it's behind all that where its real product lies: some 200,000 CDs from everywhere in Latin America.
For years, Baltimore’s ethnic music stores like this one were spared from the digital music revolution that consumed their American counterparts because cusomters came to them for music they couldn't find at the mall. But recently, the economy has siphoned away the lowly-paid immigrant customers they have long relied on.
Owners of music stores across nationalities - Hispanic, Indian, Arabic and Greek - are not buying music the way they used to. Some have sold off their collections, and others are considering closing up shop.
“My customers are just dropping by now to say goodbye,” said Carlos Morales, the owner of Juquilita, another music store on Eastern Avenue. He’s considering closing up shop permanently when his lease is over in December. “When they’re the most affected people by the recession, what the hell am I supposed to do?”
If these stores stop selling music, as La Guadalupana on Wolfe Street already has, it won’t just be a loss of inventory for the regulars.
“It would be a huge blow for those of us that can’t afford a computer,” said Carolina Portillo, a 35-year-old El Salvadorean customer at Don Pedro’s. “Music is how I stay connected to my country. Don Pedro’s is the only place where I can find music from El Salvador.”
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Photo: At Don Pedro's Musica Latina, manager Sandra Rivera talks with musician Benedicto Fernandez, center, as Alberto Macia looks over a new CD. (Jed Kirschbaum, Baltimore Sun)