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Homer's Music & Gifts is closing its last Lincoln store, ending an era in the city's retail music scene.

An exact closing date for the store at 6105 O St. isn't set yet, but it will be sometime next month, said Mike Fratt, general manager of the Omaha-based company.

The economy and the inability to negotiate more favorable lease terms with the building's owner combined to prompt the closing, Fratt said.

The Lincoln store had a 10 percent sales gain in 2007 and even eked out a 1 percent gain last year, he said.

But after the recession hit Nebraska last fall, things started going downhill.

"It was really ugly in October, really ugly in January and really ugly this month," said Fratt, noting that Homer's did not see a similar decline at its Omaha stores.

Still, he said, the downhill slide alone wouldn't necessarily have spelled the end for the Lincoln store.

But its lease recently came up for renewal, and Fratt said he sought a rent concession from the building's owner, Kin Properties of Boca Raton, Fla.

"I made it abundantly clear to them that if the math didn't work, we weren't going to stay," he said.

Fratt said the Lincoln lease is the most expensive the company has - it has three stores in Omaha - and he didn't think it was worth it, especially because, in his opinion, 61st and O is not as desirable as it used to be.

Discussion with Kin Properties led to an offer of a "minuscule" concession, he said.

"We're risk-averse," Fratt said. "I don't want to sign a lease and then have the store collapse."

Len Weiselberg, a leasing agent with Kin Properties, said the company does not comment on its properties or tenants.

Fratt said he considered moving the store and looked at other property in Lincoln, but found it all too expensive.

"We've enjoyed our time in Lincoln," he said, noting Homer's provided something - an independent, full-service new record store - Lincoln otherwise didn't have.

"We're disappointed," Fratt said. "But the Lincoln consumers have voted with their dollars to some extent as well."

The closing will put seven or eight mostly part-time employees out of work, Fratt said.

Homer's entered the Lincoln market in 1994 when it bought the Pickles and Twisters record chains.

After that purchase, Homer's had six Lincoln stores. That dwindled to three by the turn of the century, and then to one after Homer's closed its downtown store, at 126 N. 14th St., in 2007.

Big Apple leaving, too?

Homer's might not be the only business leaving the building at 61st and O streets.

Bob Von Kaenel, owner of the local Big Apple Bagels, said he is negotiating with Kin Properties but is having difficulty because Kin wants one tenant for the whole building.

Von Kaenel said he and Homer's are technically subleasing their spaces from Big Apple Bagels' corporate office, which holds the master lease on the property from when it opened the store in 1997.

The corporate office no longer wants the lease, "so that leaves me to deal with Kin Properties to try to stay in there."

As with Homer's, Kin Properties' Weiselberg declined to comment on Big Apple Bagels' situation. He did confirm, though, that the company is marketing the whole building for lease.

Von Kaenel said his first offer from Kin Properties was more than $22 a square foot - 70 percent more than the $13 a square foot he's paying now.

Von Kaenel thinks 61st and O is a great location, but he can't afford that rate, nor can he afford to take over the master lease.

"It would mean I'm out at the end of the year."

Reach Matt Olberding at 473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

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