Rockit Scientist Records Packs Up Its Crates

Joe BarbosaSuzanne Rozdeba Joe Barbosa had been selling records outside of the store.

Earlier today, John Kioussis hauled a turntable and a few remaining crates of records out of an empty, darkened storefront at 33 St. Marks Place. Before locking up the narrow nook that has housed Rockit Scientist Records since 2003, he said he had closed in part because of squabbles with one of his landlords.

Mr. Kioussis let forth a litany of complaints about Amnon Kehati, a co-owner of the building (which is for sale) and of Mark Burger next-door: he had set up tables in front of his store without asking, made unreasonable complaints about garbage bags being left out, and accused the record store of attracting rats.

“The reason we have rats in the building, according to the landlord, is because I have records downstairs and rats are attracted to records,” Mr. Kioussis said as he cleared out his shop. “I wonder what scientist would tell you that Bob Dylan and Sex Pistols records attract rats as opposed to bags of tomatoes and onions all over the floor.”

As he spoke in exasperated tones, the shopkeeper used pointed language to describe his landlord, who did not immediately respond to a message requesting comment when reached at one of his other businesses, Sidewalk Cafe. “I could use other words,” he said, “but your ears would curl.” He called Mr. Kehati “an angry guy” and worse. But during one recent exchange, it was Mr. Kioussis who was yelling. “There’s no reason to talk to you like a human being,” he recalled telling his landlord, “because you’re not.”

Mr. Kioussis said he was packing up in large part because of such squabbles, and not because his business was in dire straights. “Business could always be better, but I’ve got a loyal clientele,” he said. “Between my regular customers, the average person walking down the street, and tourists (because this is still a tourist area), business is okay considering the economy and everything else. I was paying my bills.”

Still, the shopkeeper said he asked his landlords (Charles Fitzgerald is also a partner in the building) to lower his rent of $8,500 per month, and they declined. “They basically offered to keep it at the same rent, but it’s not worth it,” he said. “I could’ve worked another year, gotten totally out of debt, put some money aside; but I don’t want to do four years of working 72 hours a week. I’d drop dead of a heart attack at some point.”

In fact, Mr. Kioussis said he might not have stayed even if the rent had been lowered. “I don’t think I would’ve renewed the lease if he gave it to me for five, four grand,” he said. “The amount of stress, aggravation and everything else I’ve had to put up with is not worth it.”

Mr. Kioussis, who has had to relocate Rockit Scientist in the past (it was on Carmine Street for seven and a half years before moving to the East Village), may eventually look for another space. For now he’ll continue to sell his records via eBay and other online outlets. He said, “At this point my goal is to take a few months off and relax.”