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May 30, 2006

Farewell to Root and Roll, a local music institution

When Larry Root was a kid, he almost always had a boom box jammed against his ear. Classic rock filled his brain, probably more so than the sound of his teachers’ voices.“There goes old ‘Root and roll,’” a classmate observed one day, long before Root started his used music business nearly 20 years ago in Jeffersonville. But he never forgot it, and when he opened his current location — which he’s had for 16 years — he named it Root and Roll because of that comment.And now, after the usual ups and downs any small business faces and nearly two decades of making a living providing music to hardcore fans, Root has decided to close his doors for good. By early to mid-June, he said, he hopes to have as much stock sold off as possible and to bring Root and Roll to a quiet end.It’s fitting — Larry Root is a quiet man, one of those guys who says little but still manages to say a lot. “I didn’t want this to be the only thing of significance I ever did,” Root said recently, when asked why he was closing after all this time. He said he may be interested in doing “something environmental,” but hasn’t fully decided on what path to take once Root and Roll is no more.He started out some 19 years ago selling second-hand music out of his home. He never envisioned opening a store at that point, and certainly didn’t envision making a living at it.“I started out trying to change my cassette collection to CDs,” he said, but realized he was selling enough that he began trading for and buying other people’s collections for resale. “I thought I maybe could make enough to put a down payment on a house. It grew to this.”What Root and Roll has been for loyal customers is a place to go and lose themselves in music for a while, test-driving used CDs on cheap headphones. Root didn’t mind if you walked out without buying anything, but most of the time you did. Used CDs were $8.99, with a “bargain bin” that grew over time with discs as low as $3.99. Cassettes were even cheaper, and some of the vinyl he still had during a recent visit was dirt cheap.And Root’s primary source of marketing was the simple black-and-white “Root and Roll” bumper sticker he gave to each customer, along with the advice, “You’ll get better gas mileage if you put this on your car.”But times have been leaner in recent years, he said, and for no particular reason. “It’s a combination of things. Music sales in general are down. I think that is because music is not really that good anymore as a whole. Plus you’ve got the whole recordable CD thing, and iTunes.”Root, 49, is married now, has some options and has simply chosen to do something new with his life.“It’s run its course,” he said.Root and Roll is located at 3808 E. Highway 62 in Jeffersonville. The store will close sometime in early June, with new and used merchandise marked down by at least 15 percent. For more info, call (812) 288-8968.  Contact the writer at kgramone@aol.com