BELFAST, Maine — Citing rents that are too high, the owner of Camden’s landmark music store Wild Rufus Records is closing its doors.
The store will reopen Monday up the coast in Belfast.
“I can move to Belfast and pay almost one-third of what I’m paying now and have twice the space,” owner Nathaniel Bernier said Friday. “It’s a no-brainer.”
Friday was the last day of business in downtown Camden for Wild Rufus, which has operated there for 30 years. It is one of the largest independently owned music stores in Maine with a focus on the eclectic, Bernier said. He’s packing up the store’s inventory to move it to a previously vacant storefront at 135 High St. near the co-op.
“I think it’s going to be a really good fit for Belfast,” he said. “There’s a positive vibe there, a sense of community. The feeling of community in Camden has gone by the wayside. Everybody’s scrambling to get ahead.”
Bernier has owned the music store since 2001 and moved it from its prior location on Bayview Street to Main Street three years ago. There, Bernier’s shop has enjoyed good visibility, lots of foot traffic — and higher rents.
Michael Hurley, the former mayor of Belfast, said Camden’s loss is Belfast’s gain.
“I think Belfast needs a well-run music store,” Hurley said. “And these guys seem to know a lot about the music business.”
Hurley said he thinks that both Camden and Belfast “are struggling” to keep a sustainable small-business base.
“It’s easier to retain business than to get a new one,” Hurley said.
But Jeffrey Nims, Camden’s town planner and code enforcement officer, said that moves such as Bernier’s are all part of the ebb and flow of local business.
“Stuff continues to shift and change and move,” Nims said. “The story, I think, is that this seems to be very common in a lot of the service centers in Maine. It’s nothing unusual for any particular city.”
Bernier hopes his move to Belfast will make good business sense. As he unpacks 10,000 pounds of vinyl records and lots of compact discs, cassettes, eight-tracks, DVDs and more, he’s excited about his extra space. He’s planning to reinstate the store’s popular open turntable nights on Fridays, where local DJs can show their stuff. Bernier also is looking forward to having live music in the store, something that his Camden spot was too small to make possible.
“It’s a fantastic location, the space is great,” Bernier said. “And in Belfast, everybody seems to be working towards a common goal.”