The Death of My First Record Store

 Last year saw the closure of The Exclusive Company, a small chain of record stores that was a mainstay of Wisconsin's independent music scenes for more than 60 years under the ownership of one man, James "Mr. G" Giombetti. The Green Bay location, seen in the first three images here, was my first record store.


The Exclusive Company delivered a love of dozens of artists during a time when I bought a ton of music based on album art alone. Tom, who managed the Green Bay location for a quarter century, started out in my teenage mind as the classic image of an intimidating, snobby record store guy. But it didn't take long to learn he was genuinely friendly and excited to share knowledge with curious customers. Tom drove a little Toyota Tercel with a Descendents bumper sticker on the back, a car that is forever burned into my memory. Just like him, it was a mainstay of the store. My family only lived in Green Bay for six years, so I never got to know its local live music scene well, but I've heard that Tom was right in the middle of it as a member of several bands.


I've visited the Green Bay store twice since they closed. The first was shortly after their final week in business, with handwritten goodbye signs on the doors and a pinboard that had always been filled with show posters hanging empty in the entryway. The second, when I took these photos, came after the space had been cleaned up and lease signs placed in the windows, no longer recognizably The Exclusive Company. But out back, next to where Tom used to park his Tercel, one logo sticker still clung to the employee entrance.


Thankfully, The Exclusive Company's Milwaukee and West Bend locations were bought out and reopened by employees under new branding - you can see the Milwaukee store with their new name, Lilliput Records, in the last photo of this set. But the Green Bay store, the one that was foundational to my music habit, is gone.