VILLE PLATTE – Floyd Soileau has been talking to a lot of people lately who reminisce about the early days and years at Floyd’s Record Shop.
Some talk about buying records from him at the bank building, before he opened his shop in 1956. Others remember buying a portable 45-RPM record player or other item at his shop decades ago.
Calls have been coming from people wondering where they were going to be able to buy Cajun, zydeco and swamp pop music. “People had been used to coming to the store in person,” he said, but he tells them to just go on the shop’s web site or call the 1-800 number.
The reason people are thinking about the old days, or wondering about where they will find local music in the future, is that Floyd’s shop is closing after 56 years. This is the last week the store will open its doors.
Floyd recalls the store’s more prosperous times, from the 1950s through the 1970s, when “music was a big part of the entertainment scene,” at parties, dances with live bands or at gathering places where young people would listen to tunes coming from juke boxes.
In those days, young people would buy Decca phonographs, “that were like little hat boxes they would carry around,” Floyd said. Business boomed as people heard new tunes on juke boxes, phonographs and the radio.
Business was so good, Floyd expanded his merchandise from music -- including records, musical instruments, phonographs and radios -- to Hitache rice cookers and Hamilton Beach electric knives, among other items.
Floyd used his marketing genius to lure customers back to his store by getting into the film developing business. He would give customers a free roll of film when they had film developed there. Of course the days of negatives and customers coming in to pick up their envelopes of processed negatives and developed prints are also gone now.
So are the portable phonographs and the juke boxes that played 45-RPM records.
Floyd said nowdays, video games and 300-plus cable TV channels and other distractions has changed all that. “Now, the entertainment industry is divided. Music plays a small part of that now.”
A lot has changed since nationally broadcast commercials would draw people to Ville Platte specifically to visit the record shop. Children whose families vacationed in nearby attractions such as in Toledo Bend would talk their parents into coming to the shop.
That was when people would drive on Highway 167 between Alexandria to Lafayette and to points beyond.
The 20 full-time employees of Floyd’s Record Shop in those early days sold so many 45-RPM records, a huge warehouse was added behind the store, most of which is now empty, although there are still 45s stored there.
Floyd joked recently that maybe he can get people interested in buying some of the 50,000-plus 45s stored there to cover their walls.
Communities along Highway 167 eventually experienced a drop in through-traffic when I-49 opened in the 1990s. There wasn’t much change in walk-in business at first. But, “It took its bite 10 to 12 years later,” Floyd said.
“Now, people come to Ville Platte for a reason,” such as to visit family or friends, but not often to visit the record shop. A lot of the music is now marketed through catalogue or Internet sales.
So, what’s in Floyd’s future? “I don’t fish or hunt,” he said, “And I don’t chase those little white balls around,” he said, referring to golf. But he will continue to put in some time at Flat Town Music Company.
Mona Ortego will also work at Flat Town, where she will continue to fill orders that come in by phone and computer. She was filling orders non-stop before Christmas. Her brother Cecil, who has managed the shop’s retail marketing, and his wife, Cynthia, wholesale manager, will be retiring. Cecil will do some hunting and fishing, but said he will put more time into making accordions. “And I’ll do a lot of yard work,” he added. All three have worked at the shop since the late 1960s. Bookkeeper Mona Duplechain, who has worked there since 1976, said she will take some time off before deciding what to do next.