For four years, Flippers served as Miami's premier source for world music. DJs, musicians, students, and foreign film directors congregated at the disheveled storefront on NE Second Avenue, combing sections marked flamenco, reggae, Spanish reggae, North Africa, West Africa, South Africa, Cuba (before and after the revolution), Brazil, Latin jazz, and one dubbed Whatever! Store owner and armchair musicologist Carlos Suarez held court by the stereo system at the front of the store, handing out unsolicited opinions about customers' selections. Suddenly, one day last December, Flippers closed. Suarez was gone. (A CD Solution eventually opened in the space.)
Suarez relocated to Spec's Music, where he has a new gig as the chain's Latin music buyer. He says business at Flippers gradually decreased, speculating that world-music titles became easier to find at mainstream outlets. Bowing to what he terms "the burnout factor," Suarez packed it in, abandoning plans to start a concert series on the shop's second floor. "I decided not to stay in for health reasons," explains a revitalized Suarez. "But would I do it again? Yes."
Suarez has left his small businessman's woes behind him to do battle in a corporate retail world in which Julio Iglesias's new album, La Carretera, is currently the store's top-selling Latin album, while releases by Afro-Cuban group Conjunto Cespedes and piano wild man Eddie Palmieri fight for rack space. On the bright side, Suarez just ordered a vast shipment of African and Brazilian music for Spec's brand-new Coconut Grove store. "You have to devote most of your time here to major labels, and other projects are at the end of the line," he concedes. "I have to be realistic. In this situation, you can't have ninety percent of the store be world music and ten percent be pop. That's only in my world."
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By Michael Yockel
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