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The Last Headbang: Metal Haven Prepares to Close

By Hunter Clauss | Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Mark Weglarz

Mark Weglarz strikes a pose inside Metal Haven. Photo by Hunter Clauss.

Metal heads from around the world won?t be flocking to Ravenswood for very long. Since opening in 1999, Metal Haven has become the record store to go to for underground or hard-to-find metal records. But the store will be closing its doors for good in the ?next five to eight weeks,? said owner Mark Weglarz. Weglarz left his job as a regional manager at the now defunct Tower Records to open Metal Haven in Lake View because he wasn?t happy with what other records stores had to offer. ?Wherever I went either had very little metal or they had a lot of metal and the prices were too high, so I couldn?t find a happy medium,? said Weglarz.

Weglarz said the store quickly established a loyal following and even made him a mini-celebrity at shows. ?People I didn?t know would come up to me to say hi. It?s flattering, but it?s not like I have paparazzi following me.?

But Weglarz said Metal Haven started to face a number of setbacks. He said the rent in Lake View was becoming too expensive and he had to move the store to its current location near Montrose and Damen in 2007. Weglarz also said the rise of online downloading and the recession had a huge impact on the store, and he had to take up a second job working in an office building. Weglarz sounds surprisingly calm when he talks about his decision to close the store.

?I haven?t lived a normal life in almost a decade, so it?s time to do that,? he said.

Metal Haven is currently throwing an ?Armageddon sale? with some merchandise marked down 30 percent. ?I refuse to call it the closing or going out of business sale,? Weglarz said. The Center Square Journal caught up with Weglarz and talked about how he got into metal, what he misses about the store?s old location in Lake View, and his plans for the future.

How did you discover metal?

I was in eight grade or freshman year of high school, when cassettes were real big, and my older brother bought the cassette of Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden when it just came out in the early 80s. It had this crazy artwork, and I was just like, ?Wow. This looks pretty cool.?

I was young at the time and I had to go to bed at a certain time, so what I would do was go to bed with my Walkman, back when Walkmen were big. Kids these days probably don?t even know what that is. So I?d bring my Walkman to bed and listen to music and go to bed with my headphones on. And I?ll never forget putting in that Number of the Beast cassette and it starts with that Vincent Price line, ?Woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil sends the beast with wraith because he knows the time is short.? When he did it with that voice, I didn?t expect it. I expected music to come on, so it actually scared the shit out of me because I had the lights off in my room. And then the guitars came in right after that, and I was totally blown away. That?s probably where my love of heavy metal started.

What bands would you recommend for people who are curious about dipping into metal?

Opeth and Agalloch. They?re more progressive. Their song writing is more intricate and can be beautiful but remain heavy at the same time. Those kinds of bands can appeal to anybody if you give it a chance. Opeth can have 12 or 15 minute songs, so they?re actual compositions. They also have an acoustic album, and a lot of people really like it. So that?s a really good introduction.

And then you have all the power metal bands, which is another subgenre. So you get bands like DragonForce, which has a huge commercial appeal and can then open you up to bands like Blind Guardian and Sonata Arctica. Most of Blind Guardian?s albums are about Lord of the Rings, so you got that whole mythology thing going on there.

Photo by Hunter Clauss.

With a store like this, I imagine you get a few characters coming in.

I?m not going to go into specifics of people. Basically the way that I see it is anywhere you go in society, there will be a small percentage of weird, crazy whacko, radical, whatever you want to call it. There?s always going to be one of two percent of people who are going to be off. The very small percentage of people who come in here and are off?they?re metal heads. I don?t have a problem with anybody who comes in here who?s a metal head.

How would you describe your clientele?

Obviously, a lot of the metal heads are going to have long hair, but the part that?s cool about it is metal heads come from every spectrum of society. I got people who come in here who are lawyers and accountants. A good friend of mine is an IRS agent. They come from all segments of society, and so some of them have to cut their hair and stuff like that because of what they do.

Actually, I just read in the paper that one of the Chicago Blackhawks is a metal fan. It?s cool to see a professional athlete into this kind of music. I wish he?d stop by the store and spend a lot of money.

The store used to be located in Lake View. Is there anything you like more about the new location?

I love just about everything about it except for one thing. The only drawback is that there isn?t as many young, hot women walking past the store anymore. Lake View is heavy populated with young, hot women. But everything about Ravenswood is so much better. I wish I had moved two years sooner. I knew I built up enough of a loyal following that wherever I went, people would follow me, so I wanted to get a bigger place and pay less rent. And that?s what I found here.

What are you going to do with your huge following when the store closes?

Not a lot. The store was basically controlled by the people coming in here. The fans, the clients, the customers, or whatever you want to call them, they controlled the destiny of the store. As less and less people shop here, eventually it has to come to an end. They supported me for all these years, and I?m very grateful for it. It was a great time. Coming down to the end, there?s still a loyal following. It?s just not enough to support a brick-and-mortar business.

Are you going to do anything online?

Probably not. I?ve been doing the two job thing for more than seven years now, and I?m in my forties now, so its got to come to a point where I get some rest and relaxation. I was happy doing it for as long as I possibly could, but the terms were dictated to me, as far as the amount of people coming in here and supporting the place. I have no control over that and it?s fine. Now does that mean something may not come in the future? Something may.

What would that something be?

We?ll see. It depends on if I have the money and the will to put a lot of time into it. We?ll see where I am mentally and physically in about a year. I always have ideas and plans, but we?ll just have to see. I can?t give details because I?m not going to discuss something that might not happen. Metal Haven may rise out of the ashes and it may not.

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