By Terry Miller
If music be the food of Love, play on. No one knows that better than William Shakespeare and Don Collins, owner of Family Affair Music. Sadly, the end of his tenure at the store is in sight.
It’s never easy seeing a business close, but for Family Affair Music, it really is the end of a remarkable era. They’ve been supplying Monrovian’s with cassettes, posters, LPs, CDs, Reel to reel tapes , 8-track tapes, musical instruments and extensive music knowledge since 1972.
The owner of the building, which now houses Family Affair, recently passed away and the Trustees of that Estate want to triple the rent after 45 memorable years in the same location.
Needless to say, that put Collins in a position he never dreamed he’d have to face. “Oh well, he says, I’d like to stay, but I’d have to win the lottery.”
We stopped in to see Collins on Tuesday morning. Living up to its name, his daughter, Casey, who was helping dad sort through the veritable museum of music history, said she has mixed emotions about the events that are directly affecting her Father’s life. She hopes her father can now perhaps have a little time off and relax.
When you walk into Family Affair Music, you’re literally stepping back in time. When we visited, a steady stream of people popped into the shop to wish Collins well, buy a few memories and share reminisces of the time when they bought albums and 45’s back in the 1970s.
One Monrovia native, Cynthia Cesina, said she remembers asking Collins about a song she was looking for back in 1974. The then Clifton School student, not knowing the title or artist – she sang a few bars and Collins immediately knew what she was looking for. We asked Cesina what that record was … “Oh my God, that was 1974, I have no idea but I remember Mr. Collins found the record I was looking for.”
Cesina said nothing can ever replace those schoolgirl memories and thanked Collins for always being there. At that point Collins gave a tearful Cesina a thankful hug.
In keeping with the Clifton School’s obvious connection, Family Affair Music has been supported through the years by Clifton’s schools band director, Mr. Gholar. “He’s the one band director in Monrovia School District who supported us all these years.” Collins said.
Don Collins opened up his unique Monrovia music shop at 510 South Myrtle along with his brother Elton and wife Linda back in the early 1970s, just after Johnson’s Music closed their doors. Johnson’s originally opened in the 1940s in the same location.
At that point Family Affair Music and ‘Action Footware’ were the only two African-American owned businesses on Myrtle Ave. Ironically the two men shared the same last name although no relation.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Collins, who has dealt with racial tensions in Monrovia since the 70s. In one instance, Collins was sorting some records out on the sidewalk of his store when a VW bug pulled up, opened fire hitting Collins in the buttocks and neck and then speeding off down Myrtle. It was a pellet gun and luckily Collins wasn’t seriously hurt, however he recognized there was tension and was understandably shaken by the incident. He filed a police report immediately.
Another incident involved some two young men who leveled racial epitaphs as they walked by the store. Sadly, it wasn’t uncommon in Monrovia’s past.
Collins remains the sole African-American business owner in the city of Monrovia and he ponders on the divisive nature of America today compared to the 60s and 70s. Sadly history tends to repeat itself.
There have been more good times than bad, however. Love Unlimited (Barry White’s Band) paid an extraordinary visit to the shop as Jim Carey, Will Farrell and countless other musicians from around the globe.
With at least 20,000 records in stock, Collins hopes the community will come out and help him liquidate his vast collection before Christmas.
Although no definite date has been set for closure, it probably will be late December or January sometime. Not November, as previously reported.
In addition to the massive rent increase proposal, Collins – along with countless mom and pop retailers – has been fighting the internet’s effect of brick and mortar stores.
Amazon and other online companies have made it so easy to buy online, which many retailers cannot compete with and will ultimately have to close if projections for internet sales growth continue to rise exponentially.
When asked what he’s going to do after he leaves, Collins quipped that maybe he’ll just become an Uber driver! “I’ve always been my own boss.”
Collins’ daughter has set up a Facebook page for people to leave their comments and well wishes.
Family Affair Music is open Monday – Friday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. They are located at 510 South Myrtle, (626) 358-2280.