Wherehouse closing may strand employees

Scott Gordon

When Wherehouse Music closes next week, most of its employees will be jobless.

Wherehouse, 1711 Sherman Ave., is scheduled to close April 25, and according to assistant manager Alisa Hayward, only one of the store’s 12 employees has found work.

“It’s a really bad time to be looking for a new job,” said store manager George Drag, who has worked at Wherehouse for seven years. “I’m going to miss Evanston.”

The store’s parent company, Wherehouse Entertainment, Inc., is closing 230 of its 370 stores nationwide. The chain’s three other Illinois stores — in Effingham, Buffalo Grove and Orland Park — also will be shutting down.

The company filed for bankruptcy Jan. 21, after closing 30 of its stores. The company originally planned to close only 150 locations, according to a press release.

Assistant manager Ken Buchholz said the company first decided the Evanston store would not be closed.

“About a week after that, we got the surprise,” Buchholz said.

All of the store’s fixtures — display racks, a counter, televisions and shelves — have been sold. Only a Coca-Cola cooler, decorative busts of Ludwig van Beethoven and Hank Williams Sr. and dissatisfied customers remain.

These days shoppers can’t find much they want.

“It seems like all the good stuff is gone,” said Anner Aquino, who works in Evanston and shops at Wherehouse during his lunch breaks.

In recent weeks Wherehouse merchandise has been heavily marked down. Buchholz said sales picked up when discounts reached the 30 to 50 percent range.

“There’s pretty much nothing in the store that people will want until the discounts are even greater,” Buchholz said. As of Wednesday, the store was selling all remaining merchandise at 60 percent off.

Wherehouse isn’t the only area music store feeling the crunch. The recent recession and a decrease in foot traffic in Evanston have been especially hard on business, said Jack Kirk, manager of new and used music store Dr. Wax , 1615 Sherman Ave.

“We’ve had to cut our staff by over 50 percent just to stay alive,” Kirk said.

The closing of Wherehouse can’t hurt Dr. Wax, Kirk said, but “it hasn’t been a big help.”

Derek Erdman, an employee at 2nd Hand Tunes, 800 Dempster St., said there were other reasons for Wherehouse’s closing.

“It seems to me that the people in Evanston rally around independent businesses,” Erdman said. He also noted that Wherehouse’s current location is costly to maintain.

Erdman said business at 2nd Hand has increased, as customers who are unable to find what they want at Wherehouse have come to his store to place orders.