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RUDA'S RECORD STORE - Buffalo, Lackawanna, Cheektowaga
Internet is the Last Straw for N.Y. Polka Shop
by Melissa Block, All Things Considered National Public Radio June 25, 2007 · Almost 60 years ago, Virginia Ruda and her husband founded Ruda's Records and Polish Gifts in the Buffalo suburb of Cheektowaga, N.Y. Ruda says people in and around Buffalo are still crazy for Polka music, but mostly they get it on the Internet now.
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Owner Don Ruda...a true friend to the Buffalo polka scene
JUNE 30, 2007 - After 57 years, Buffalo, New York's last remaining polka record store closed its doors. Founded by the husband and wife team Don and Virg Ruda, Ruda's Records was a mainstay of the Buffalo polka and Polish scene. The store had its beginnings in 1950 with a location in Lackawanna and then with a flagship store in the heart of Polonia on Broadway. During the 90s, the store's location was moved to William Street in Cheektowaga. Mrs. Ruda cited internet sales and the direct sale of CDs through the bands themselves as the primary reason for calling it quits. Simply, it was becoming much too difficult to get new, fresh product for customers.
Famous Broadway Store closed in the early 1990s. Business moved to Clinton Street in Cheektowaga were it operated until June 2007
Record store specializing in Polish music to close after 57 years Associated Press - June 25, 2007 8:55 AM ET
CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (AP) - They're rolling out the barrel -- and everything else -- at a Buffalo-area record store specializing in polka music and all things Polish. Accordion player Don Ruda (ROO'-duh) and his wife Virginia opened Ruda's Records in a Polish neighborhood in Buffalo in 1950. Over the years it became THE place to buy polka records, along with Top 40 albums. Polka musicians from all over made their way to Ruda's to purchase music or to sell their own records. Sixteen-time Grammy Award winner Jimmy Sturr -- known as "The Polka King" -- called Ruda's a "historical place" that helped him start his polka music career 30 years ago. The Rudas downsized their business and moved it to suburban Cheektowaga in the early 1990s.
Don Ruda died ten years ago, and after 57 years, Rudas Records will close its doors on Saturday because of declining business. Virginia Ruda tells The Buffalo News that today's technology means more people are buying their music off the Internet rather than from small record stores.
Teenagers crowd Ruda's Lackawanna Store
Outside of Ruda's Lackawanna Store - 50s
Don Ruda at the Lackawanna store, circa 1956
Inside Broadway store. Until is closed in the 90s, the store was held a treasure trove of 45s, rare polka records and great Polish gifts
1960s view of Ruda's on Broadway
Maxwell Truth buys the last of the stock on the last day of Ruda's Records - June 30, 2007.
William Street location on the last day of operations - June 30, 2007
Ruda’s Records is closing after 57 years of business
Don Ruda opened the store in 1950 to sharehis love of music with others
By Christopher Michel Buffalo News
June 25, 2007
Ruda’s Records isn’t just another record store. It’s a place where the latest polka record can be bought and Polish heritage is celebrated. But after 57 years of business, Ruda’s Records will close its doors on Saturday. Opened in 1950, by Don and Virginia Ruda, Ruda’s Records became a Buffalo mainstay. Don Ruda opened the store not only to sell records, but to share his love of music with others. “My husband loved polka music and loved promoting it. He was the kind of guy who could play almost any tune on the accordion by ear. One of the reasons he opened the store in 1950 was so he could teach others how to play musical instruments,” Virginia Ruda said.
Over the years, Ruda’s Records had several locations in the heart of the Polonia district of Buffalo. Its most popular location was on Broadway. “During our time at our Broadway store, we had a large variety of records available. My husband always handled the polka music and I always handled the rock ’n’ roll.We always had the Billboard Top 40 records available,” Ruda said. In 1993, the Rudas decided to downsize and focus on only selling Polish items, moving from Broadway to William Street in Cheektowaga. Despite years of declining business, the decision to close was not easy for Ruda. “People aren’t coming in anymore. With computers, now more people are buying their music off the Internet or burning each other’s music. Business at my store has been going down because of that,” Ruda said. Even polka musicians are feeling the pinch from music sharing. Some polka bands that would sell thousands of CDs are now selling only a third of what the once did, Ruda said.
All music genres are being affected. “The issue is now people have more ways to access music,” said Larry Sanders, management information systems professor at the University at Buffalo. “The supply chain for music is different than it has been in the past, with programs like iTunes and Web sites like Amazon. com and being able to illegally share music.” Sanders said music being purchased online is having a dramatic effect on sales at both large chain music stores and small record stores, like Ruda’s Records. “There are a lot of different pressures in the music sales world now with downloading music online. This is hurting smaller record stores, and it’s sad to see them closing. They used to be a place where people could hang out and talk to a knowledgeable staff,” Sanders said. Virginia Ruda continued to run the store after her husband’s death in 1997 despite slowing sales.
“I love promoting Polish music, and this has been my whole life. I just didn’t see the need to stop and close the store. If I didn’t keep the store open, then there really wouldn’t have been a place like this to help people,” she said. Up until a few years ago, Ruda’s Records received more than 100 calls a month from customers asking questions on where to find unique Polish items or Polish events. In an e-mail, Jamie Bray said after her father stopped getting oplatek, the traditional Polish wafer eaten at Christmas, she came to rely on Ruda’s. “A couple of weeks before Christmas, probably in 1998, I realized I didn’t have oplatek. I’d never missed sharing the wafer with my family. My dad suggested I call this store in New York state. It was Ruda’s. They shipped my oplatek to my home in San Bernardino, California, along with some Polish Christmas CDs I ordered,” wrote Bray. Phil Martin was helped by Ruda as well, being put in contact with famed polka musician Jimmy Sturr. With her help, Martin’s song was put on Sturr’s latest Grammy-winning album and has gained much popularity. “Virginia really opened the door for me. Without her help, the song would have just been a good song and nothing would have happened with it,” Martin said.
The store welcomed many legends of polka music, like Frankie Yankovic and Li’l Wally Jagiello. For Sturr, winner of 16 Grammy Awards and known as “The Polka King,” Ruda’s Records will always hold a place in his heart. “I am disappointed the store is closing. For us in the polka music business, it’s a historical place,” said Sturr. “Many polka musicians would drive from all over to have their records sold at the store. They sold my records when I was getting my start 30 years ago.” After the store closes, Ruda does not intend to retire. She plans to stay active in the Polish community. Although she won’t be helping arrange polka dances anymore, she hopes to attend them all. “I’ve worked at this store for 57 years, and this is my life. I’m not the type that can sit and do nothing,” Ruda said.
WEBR DJ Lucky Pierre signing autographs at the Lackawanna store
Marion Lush with Stan Jasinski - 1965
The Jumping Jacks at the International Polka Convention in Buffalo, 1965
Frankie Yankovic, Li'l Wally & Don Ruda at WKBW-TV studios
Stan Jasinski with Walt Jaworski at a live broadcast from the Broadway Market. Don Ruda to the right
Don Ruda and family with Fabian
DJ Lucky Pierre with Santa at Lackawanna store
DJ Happy Harry in 1965
Dave Gawronski, Don Ruda, Marion Lush, Walt Jaworksi and Eddie Olinski