"The economy is killing me," he says. "Two weeks ago, I had another $80 day." He doesn't say when the first $80 day was, but they're coming too close together now to stay afloat.
"At one time we did $250,000 a year. In the '90s," he says of the compact disc's pre-Napster golden age, "not a lot of profit, but we were doing OK." Even as recently as the run-up to the Iraq War, Gallagher said he would have $900 days. Not anymore.
In its heyday, Gallagher's shop was famous for having a limited selection of CDs and vinyl in stock while gladly special-ordering albums he didn't carry in the store. I remember going to 4000 Holes when I was in high school, searching for obscure East Bay punk bands. He rarely had what I was looking for, but he always offered to send away for them. On occasion, I took him up on it -- but usually after checking the much broader selection at my local Hastings.
While Gallagher uses the Iraq War to mark the date his business started going south, he isn't sure the war is causing the drop in sales directly. He's absolutely positive, though, that file sharing isn't doing it. "There's always been file sharing," he says, "whether it be me making you a cassette or what."
Still, it had to be tough on a business with the limited stock 4000 Holes had to remain competitive special-ordering for customers in an era of iTunes and Amazon.com. It's certainly not a selling point for artist and DJ James Singleton (James Pants), who has seen his trips to 4000 Holes tail off in recent years. "The selection is lacking," he says, "It's a place you can visit every six months."
Singleton will, though, miss the occasional infusion of the weird to 4000 Holes, like when Dempsey's bequeathed its entire vinyl collection to Gallagher: "I'm really going to miss the Dempsey's 12 inches."
Gallagher is holding a clearance sale, with prices dropping until everything is gone.