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Sally's Place will go silent at summer's end

Published 8:18 pm, Friday, July 12, 2013

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  • Sally White, left, the longtime owner of Sally's Place music shop in Westport, shakes hands with a longtime patron, Fran White. Sally White said her store is closing at the end of the summer. Sally White has been a mainstay of the downtown record store scene since the 1950s. Photo: Cameron Martin / Westport News
    Sally White, left, the longtime owner of Sally's Place music shop in Westport, shakes hands with a longtime patron, Fran White. Sally White said her store is closing at the end of the summer. Sally White has been a mainstay of the downtown record store scene since the 1950s. Photo: Cameron Martin

 

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For more than a half-century, Sally White has been the person to see for recorded music on Main Street in Westport.

First at two other record outlets and for the past 27 years at her own Sally's Place, White has supplied generations of Westporters with sounds ranging from Sinatra to the Stones, Mozart to Metallica, Herman's Hermits to Herbie Hancock -- and just about everything in between.

But White is taking her final spin around the record business. At the end of the summer, Sally's Place will close.

White, who counted the late jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck as a close friend, was philosophical about the decision, which she said was influenced by family considerations and by declining sales hit hard by digital sources.

"When you think about how long I've been around, how many can say they've been around 50, 60 years, doing what they love to do?" White, 84, said Friday.

Before Opening Sally's Place 1985, White had worked in the record section of Klein's, beginning in the late 1950s. Before that, she worked at Melody House, another downtown music store.

A longtime Norwalk resident, White now lives in Redding with her twin sister, whose husband recently died.

"I'm thinking (closing the store) is almost a little bit of a blessing, so I can be there for her now," said White, who has two sons and three grandchildren.

Jazz is her favorite type of music, and Frank Sinatra is her favorite singer, an appreciation that goes back to the 1940s when White saw Old Blue Eyes perform live in New York City. Sally's Place sells vinyl records, tapes and CDs, and the walls of the shop are adorned with a wide range of musical knick-knacks, including autographed photos of Sinatra and other musicians.

"I was around for all the big band things. Whether it was Basie, Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, I was around for all of that," White said.

You're most likely to hear jazz playing at Sally's Place, but White has an eclectic taste in music.

She saw the Grateful Dead perform in New Haven in the 1970s, and recent favorites such as Vampire Weekend line her shelves.

But the easy availability of music on the Internet has cut into her market and made it difficult to compete, White said.

Harry Evans, 71, has been picking up classical music compact discs at Sally's Place for more than a decade.

Evans, a former professor of classics at Fordham University, said the closing of White's shop is indicative of the times.

"It was sort of inevitable in some ways, I'm afraid, because these types of stores don't survive in today's commercial market. But it was marvelous while it lasted. She really does know music, and she took a personal interest in everything she sells."

Another customer, Fran White (not related to Sally), said Sally's Place was frequented by her sons, too.

"I had two kids who grew up here and were very used to coming here, getting gift certificates for Christmas. She had a real rapport with a lot of the young people in town," White, 66, said. "She has a very good collection of things here. And if she didn't have it, she had very good contacts among distributors and could get anything in a few days."

White said Sally's Place will close near the end of the summer.