Dudley Sq. record store stays in the groove

Supporters save Roxbury business

With the help of donors, Rusty Pendleton has kept his Roxbury business from closing its doors. With the help of donors, Rusty Pendleton has kept his Roxbury business from closing its doors. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)
By Meghan Irons
Globe Staff / October 3, 2008
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Rusty Pendleton knew he could count on his people. But there were moments of doubt.

On Sept. 20, at his first drive for donations to save his Funky Fresh Records from closing, only five people showed up.

That wasn't the case last week, however, when 600 people poured into a club in Somerville for a goodbye party that turned into a bash to save Funky Fresh, he said.

"The support of the people came out," said Pendleton (a.k.a. Mr. Funky Fresh), who has presided over the shop for 20 years. "I love them to death."

Over the past few years, Pendleton had struggled to keep his Roxbury business afloat. The bills were pilling up. He was behind on the rent, and his landlord was taking him to court. Pendleton said he needed $10,000 to stay afloat.

Over the Labor Day weekend he announced that he would shut down, and later distributed a scathing flier that railed against the bootlegging and downloading culture as well as big chain stores that he said were threatening to shut down independent record stores like his.

News of the closing sent long-gone customers back to Funky Fresh, located in Dudley Square. Some were plunking down cash in a giant bottle to keep Funky Fresh alive. Others were stocking up on CDs. Many came to say goodbye.

At the time, Pendleton said he had been ready to throw in the towel, but felt he was on a crusade to save his store from closing. He had planned to shut the doors for good on Wednesday.

Things are different now. Pendleton said he has the cash he needs to stay afloat. He had a sit-down conversation with the landlord that he said went very well.

The only place he's going now is on vacation: He plans to stay home for a week "with the shades down" beginning Monday to regroup and "clear my mind."

"I'm here," he said by phone yesterday. "I'm not going anywhere."

Cecil Guscott, who co-owns the commercial building where Funky Fresh is located, said that Pendleton has brought his rent up-to-date and that "as long as he pays his rent he can stay."

Guscott, who said his niece manages the property, said he met Pendleton for the first time recently, even though Pendleton has been there for 20 years. He said Pendleton has not always been prompt with the rent.

The 85-year-old Guscott said he has nothing personal against Pendleton and understands his struggles, but he is running a business.

"What he has to understand is that things change," Guscott said, "and he's got to change with the times."

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