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Towson University

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A classic feel

An Die Musik is an independently owned music retailer located on North Charles Street, in the heart of the Mount Vernon area. The store stocks the works of some of the best known musicians in the world, yet there are no Incubus, Norah Jones or Outkast albums to be found on any of the wooden shelves along the walls.

On the contrary, the best selling albums at this locale, named after a lied, or song, by German composer Franz Schubert, have names like Mozart, Beethoven and Bach inscribed on their CD covers.

The small shop, which is tucked into the back of the old Eubie Blake cultural center building at 407 N. Charles Street, specializes in classical and jazz music. In fact, that's all the store sells.

Sang Cho, one of the store's managers, insists that it wasn't always like this. When the store first opened more than a decade ago at its former location in Towson, it resembled some of the larger music chains that exist today.

"We used to carry everything back then," Cho said. "Some of the bigger chains around now, we resembled them before they started to exist.

"We were one of the first big superstores for CDs."

However, they certainly weren't the last. Other stores, with more resources and deeper pockets began to enter the music business and the owners of An Die Musik realized that it was time for a change.

"The market was getting diluted," Cho said. "Everybody started selling CDs... Wal-Mart and K-mart , it was just too much."

And so, with the store no longer the pillar of music in the area, the owners were faced with the decision of shutting down or changing their tune. They chose the latter.

"About eight years ago, we just decided to scale everything down," Cho said.

But in order to remain relevant in the area, An Die Musik had to find a niche. The staff's knowledge of classical and jazz music, as well as the fact that no other stores in the area specialized in those particular areas, led to the formation of the current incarnation of An Die Musik .

"It has a lot to do with the knowledge that we have and the people that are working here. It's also something that if we specialize in, we can have an edge over music superstores," Cho explained.

The store was moved to another location in Baltimore City, next door to where it is currently situated. However, after eight years at that location, the lease was up. The owners once again thought it was time for a change.

Cho said that the new Charles Street store was perfect in terms of price, appearance and functionality.

An Die Musik comprises two floors of the spacious building. The front of the store, which is currently being renovated, will eventually become a tea and wine café where patrons will be able to enjoy their music while sipping on their favorite drinks.

Furthermore, the freshly painted, bare white walls with intricate carvings, the bold hardwood floor and the stray pillars about the store combine to form a great complement to the music.

"It sort of has a classic feel to it," Cho said. "There's nothing obtrusive here, it's very soothing.

"It has sort of a historical feel to it, kind of like a mansion."

The second level is the store's concert hall. The hall, which seats about 80 people, certainly fits in nicely with the rest of the building as it resembles an old-fashioned parlor hall.

Cho hopes to have local and national artists perform in the hall. So far, renowned acts such as jazz soloist Andy Bey, Norwegian jazz act the Tord Gustavsen Trio and trumpeter Tomasz Stanko have been scheduled to perform.

"The best way to listen to classical and jazz is live," Cho said. "It's just the performer up there by himself doing his thing and I think if more people gave it a chance they would enjoy it."

But therein lyes the challenge faced by An Die Musik . Though the niche targeted by the story certainly exists, it is dominated by a clientele of older consumers and music students. They simply need more people to listen.

"There are less than a handful of stores like this in the country and I'll tell you it's very hard to stay around," Cho said. "The market for a store like this, it's not big at all."

Hopefully, the new locale with the café will help to attract a new audience.

"As in any business you want the younger people to come," he said. "You want to connect the older generation to the younger generation."

For those interested in experiencing classical music, both on disc and in a live performance, A n Die Musik is open Monday - Saturday 10a.m. - 9 p.m. and on Sunday from noon until 5 p.m.

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