Columbia businesses selling out of Jackson memorabilia

Sunday, June 28, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 11:03 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 29, 2009

COLUMBIA — Slackers CDs & Games in downtown Columbia sold out of the "Essential Michael Jackson" CD within an hour of news spreading about Jackson's death, employee Ted Sharpe said.

He predicts the store will sell out of the remaining used Jackson CDs within the next couple of days.

Other Columbia businesses are experiencing the same buying frenzy since Jackson’s death on Thursday. Residents are emptying stores of albums, videos and custom T-shirts, all remembering the King of Pop.

At Ozark Airbrush T-shirts in Columbia Mall, owner Phillip Peters started selling memorial T-shirts with Jackson’s image after people asked him where his Michael Jackson shirts were.

“People are clamoring to buy a piece of history,” Peters said.

Peters is selling three designs in his store and on eBay. His newest design features a young Jackson, simply stating “Michael Forever."

Peters said he listens to Michael Jackson music all the time. He first remembers hearing "Thriller," his favorite Jackson song, when he was in the Air Force.

"It was all everybody talked about. You couldn't avoid it," Peters said.

Peters said people of all ages are coming in to buy the memorial shirts.

"A lot of people are going to miss him," Peters said.

At Streetside Records on Friday, Columbia resident Lamarr Smith was looking to buy Michael Jackson videos, saying he already owned most of the albums.

Smith's initial reaction to Jackson's death was disbelief.

“A friend told me he died, and I didn’t believe him,” Smith said. “I turned on my TV, and it blew me away. I grew up with him, listening to his music. It was like losing someone that you knew.”

Streetside employee Eric Burch said Jackson albums sold like crazy all day Friday. Jackson’s "Greatest Hits" CD played in the store on repeat.

At Slackers, a chalkboard behind the counter read "RIP Michael Jackson" with a sad face drawn by employees.

The store distributor's Web site sold out of Jackson albums, and Sharpe doesn't know when Slackers will get another shipment.

He said Jackson's albums are so successful because there is no fluff or filler in between hit songs.

"His songs are consistently good throughout his albums, not like artists today," Sharpe said.

Sharpe said the desire for Jackson's music is so great right now that he's heard of final copies of Thriller selling for $150.

Bids are even higher on Ebay, where an unopened "Thriller" album was selling on Saturday for $1,225.

In addition to selling out at local music stores, Jackson’s albums took up seven out of 10 spaces on iTunes’ top-selling albums list and an overwhelming majority of spaces on Amazon's top mp3 downloads, as of Saturday afternoon.

Smith, whose favorite Jackson song is "Smooth Criminal," said "I don't think there will ever be anyone else like Michael. There will never be another Michael Jackson.”

Missourian reporter Sarah Rappaport contributed to this report.

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