Friday, June 1, 2012

Another One Bites the Dust: Cutler's Closing Shop After 64 Years

This one is really personal. In the past I have written about other closings in places I visit, but this one is in my hometown and was the place where it all began for me. I cannot believe Cutler's won't be there the next time I am in New Haven. But then again, my father ran the York Square Theatre next door to Cutlers until it was closed in the early 2000's, and the Yankee Doodle was gone before that, and so on and so on. Frankly I go back far enough to remember the Rexall Drug Store at the corner of Elm and York Streets. Thank God in other parts of town that Sally's, Pepe's, Louis Lunch and a few other iconic places will still be around next time I come up.

I grew up in New Haven in the sixties, and despite living in other places during and after college, maintained my connection to New Haven and to Cutler's throughout. After all, my father ran the York Square Cinemas next door and lived in Woodbridge until his passing, and I came back to New Haven and worked there from 1981-84, and again from 1998-2007. And Cutler's was always there.

Cutler's was there 64 years, or since 1948, coincidently about the time my father and mother moved to New Haven and opened the Lincoln Theater. I remember going to Cutler's very early on, probably around 1963 or so, and consistently thereafter. In those days I didn't drive yet, but I could hitch a ride from where I lived to the end of the bus line, and could go downtown from there. Cutler's had its iconic sign outfront, and wonderful people and a world of music inside. I remember Phil and Jay Cutler very well, and dad and son really made your visit a personal experience, even for a teenager wandering the aisles. And I remember the two listening booths that you could use to hear things before you bought them. Most of all I remember the music.

By 1967 I could drive downtown, so I visited even more. I remember the day I saw "Surrealistic Pillow" in the window. I'm not sure I knew much about Jefferson Airplane at that point, but Jay let me listen in one of the booths, and that was all it took. Later I recall hearing a song on my car radio as I approached downtown, "Marakesh Express", and immediately driving to Cutler's to find out about Crosby, Stills and Nash. Record after record from those halcyon days were purchased there, and are still in my collection, along with some Fillmore and Avalon Ballroom posters I got there, and which are framed and displayed in my office and in my daughter's apartment. Some great ones -- Led Zepplin, It's a Beautiful Day, all of the Beatles albums, CSNY, The Four Tops and so on -- and some questionable ones -- Sopwith Camel, Iron Butterfly, Herman's Hermits anyone? Some 60s classics you never hear now -- The Association, Chad and Jeremy, the Left Banke, Procol Harum -- but can make you smile and remember.

It was only later when I returned to New Haven that the jazz bug had hit me, and Cutler's was an excellent place to buld upon my collection, particularly with used CDs to fill in my new collection. When I worked in New Haven, I was there often at lunch time cruising the bins for new used CDs added since my last visit.

I have to say Cutler's didn't feel the same, it had moved and was smaller, but then what does feel the same after 30 years? But it still felt good -- lots of good music, posters, and paraphernalia, and great people working there who obviously cared about the music.

And now it will be gone, and once again the block will have changed, and not for the better. Out with the old and in with the new. It's the way of the world today, but boy it hurts. With Cutler's gone, another little piece of my childhood is gone too, living on only in my fond memories. Thanks Jay, thanks Phil for the wonderful times and the great music. I will miss you.

David Sampson

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I did not know this... Sad. That said, we were talking about the baritone violin the other day... Here you go:

    Now we know...