“That was the place to be on Friday nights. I never minded working there, it was the place to see and be seen and I got paid to work there,” laughed Winick, now an assistant vice president for communications at the University of Miami. “I worked in the movie section and Dave Barry would come in and I’d recommend films to him. As a freshman, that was pretty cool.”
Later this month, when the shelves are as bare as a Rihanna photo and the store manager turns the key in the glass doors for the last night, the building will be reduced to rubble. Chase Bank will open in its place in the fall.
For local historian Cristina Favretto, head of special collections at the University of Miami’s Otto G. Richter Library, the loss of Spec’s is significant.
“Spec’s’ closing is a great loss to the community,” she said. “Book stores, record stores, hair dressers, are the glue that holds communities and neighborhoods and bind individuals together. These are not just commercial places but they are a meeting place for ideas.
“They had all sorts of shows at Spec’s,” Favretto added. “You could distribute fliers, leaflets, ‘zines. A record store that sells music is a very positive meeting place because who doesn’t like music? This is not like a doctor’s office. You are making a purchase that makes you happy and finding out about other types of music that you may not have known about. When anything like that closes it’s a hole in the community fabric.”
Thanks to a generous family donation of memorabilia that traces the history of Spec’s, the UM library has 38 boxes of material including postcards, photographs, business records and plaques available to researchers and the public. “This is an interesting thing for the music lover,” Favretto said. “Mr. Spector was one of those guys who believed women could do anything men could do so the business went to his daughters.”
Sure enough, two decades before Spector died at age 98 in September 2003, he had placed his labor of love in the hands of daughters Ann Lieff, who served as Spec’s CEO, and Rosalind Zacks as its vice president.
“The love of music was the landmark of the whole thing and taking care of those customers,” said Lieff, who now heads her own consulting company, The Lieff Company, in Colorado. “I’d like to thank all of our customers, the city of Coral Gables, the university, everyone who was so loyal to us for so many years and helped create a company that grew to 80 stores. We were always trying to have the newest and best for our customers. I thought of dad as really the heart and soul but his love of music brought culture to the community.”
Impresaria Judy Drucker, founder of the Concert Association of South Florida, turned to Spec’s to showcase appearances by her classical and opera acts, including Plácido Domingo and Cecilia Bartoli, both of whom drew lines around the block for signings at the Gables store. Drucker mourns the loss of a cultural institution.
“Breaks my heart. Whenever I wanted to pick up a CD I knew nobody else would have, they had the greatest record department and they are the ones who used to save them for me. I relied on them to get the best there was and we became friends,” Drucker said. “You don’t find that with stores where you become friends with the people who save things they know you like. This takes a lot away from my life. The world has become so unaffiliated with other human beings. You don’t have that personal touch anymore. When Martin Spector was sick and dying he saved all kinds of old CDs and 78-rpms and gave them to me as a gift in a big box. That touched my heart. What can I say? The best things in life go away.”