R.I.P. METAL HAVEN: An “Armageddon Sale” isn’t a good promotion for any record store, even one that specializes in grim, foreboding heavy metal. But the end hath arrived for Metal Haven. Save new releases, everything at 2003 W. Montrose is on sale. Discounts will increase randomly throughout March and April, and owner Mark Weglarz shuts ‘er down for good by May 1st.
“I let the [customers] dictate the closing of the store,” Weglarz explains. “As long as enough people came in to pay the bills then I would stay open. When I couldn’t pay the bills anymore, then I would close.”
Explanation? Weglarz can’t afford electricity if we can’t afford the new Destroyer 666. The Skulleted One first noticed declining numbers in 2004 and admits worrying the store wouldn’t even last the length of the three-year lease he signed when Metal Haven moved from Lakeview to its current North Center home in 2007.
Surprisingly, Weglarz isn’t bitter. Though maybe he thinks it, he never once mentions MP3s, downloading, pirating, or the motherfucking iPod. And in truth, downloading and pirating didn’t kill Metal Haven. Did they have an effect? Sure, the guy sitting at home stealing Peaceville’s entire catalog helped pound a nail into the store’s coffin, but most folks shopping at Metal Haven aren’t the kind to buy Autopsy’s Severed Survival anniversary reissue through iTunes. They wouldn’t even know how . . . and that’s meant as a compliment.
“The store is not directed at the casual fan,” Weglarz says proudly. “It’s for the die-hard fan, and what comes with die-hard fans is a loyal customer base.”
“It doesn’t take much to combine $3 cans of shitty beer with your collection of Southern Lord releases and put on a ‘Metal Night’ at some lame bar,” says Chris Black, Superchrist frontman and a former Metal Haven employee. “To open and operate a niche music retail store takes incredible persistence and dedication, not just to the music itself but to the fans. The fact that the store endured as long as it did is in turn a credit to the fans who supported it.”
For more than a decade, Metal Haven was a place honest-to-goodness heavy- metal fans could fraternize. A place where they, not we, are different. A place where you didn’t get the grow-the-fuck-up look from the Pitchfork-worshipping clerk for asking where Entombed is. A place that always had a stocked Manowar section. A place that dedicated shelf space exclusively to “brutal shit,” yet sold Celine Dion cassettes. A place you showed off like you owned the joint to out-of-town friends.