Corner Plan 9, Satellite Ballroom to close
After a 10-year run, Plan 9 Music stores owner Jim Bland confirmed today that his store location on The Corner in the Anderson Building, which is also home to the Satellite Ballroom, coffee shop Higher Grounds, and the restaurant Just Curry, will close at the end of May, as property owner Terry Vassalos has declined to renew the store's lease. Since Satellite, Higher Grounds, and Just Curry all sub-lease from Plan 9, it means that those venues will be homeless on May 31 as well.
"We tried to work on a lease extension," says Bland, indicating that Vassalos may have wanted much more than Bland was comfortable with. "But nobody got an extension."
For months now, rumors that Vassalos has been courting pharmacy giant CVS as a possible tenant have been in circulation. In a Hook story on Corner moves last September, Vassalos denied that any big chains stores were sniffing around, but Vassalos told the Hook in March that the company had "studied the location."
However, neither Vasslos or CVS will confirm which company will lease the space, and Bland says he still doesn't know who the new tenant might be, despite months of negotiation with Vassalos and his lawyers.
BAR vice chair Syd Knight, who dealt with a developer for CVS who once had plans to put a store on the corner of Ridge/McIntire and West Main, said he'd be surprised if rumors about a CVS on the Corner turned out to be true.
"That location doesn't fit the standard CVS model," said Knight. " It's difficult for the non-UVA population to reach, and it has no parking or truck access for deliveries. Those are some of the problems they cite when they talk about the shortcomings of the Downtown Mall store. Why would they want to recreate them on the Corner?"
Whatever Vassalos has up his sleeve, it appears it could be lucrative.
During a bar stool conversation at his Tip Top Restaurant on Pantops Mountain in March, Vassalos said he understood why people were upset about Plan 9 and Satellite loosing their leases, "but as a business man...," he said with a shrug and a smile.
Indeed, for most landlords, a big corporate tenant like CVS would be hard to turn away.
Meanwhile, Bland suggests that closing the Corner Plan 9 may have been inevitable.
"Sales have been eroding over the last few years," he says. "The way people buy music, especially college kids, has changed– there's just no way to make money anymore."
Richmond-based Bland says the company has no plans to leave Charlottesville, a town it has served since 1985, and that Plan 9 will consolidate its efforts at its Albemarle Square location.
As a parting note, Bland says he hopes to work with the owners of Satellite to plan an appropriate good-bye blowout.
"Charlottesville has been very good to us," says Bland. "And we were proud of the Corner store, but we just couldn't afford to have two stores anymore."