Last Place On Earth, 1985

April 5, 1985

Last Place on Earth has some great bargains in records

Bob Ashenmacher, Duluth News-Tribune

How do they do it?

How does the Last Place on Earth record store at 102 E. Superior St. sell the Top 30 albums and cassette tapes for $4.98 when many record stores charge $8.98?

“We’re losing money on the $4.98 price,” said owner Jim Carlson of Duluth. “Our wholesale price is $5.75 and with freight and handling you’re supposed to come out at about $6 to break even. The suggested list (price) is $8.98.” Some of the latest popular releases, such as the current albums by Foreigner and Duran Duran, are as high as $9.98 in some stores, Carlson said.

LPOE1
Jim Carlson and his macaw, Lapoe, pose for a photo near the Top 30 albums he sells for $4.98 at his Last Place on Earth in downtown Duluth in a photo taken April 2, 1985. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune file photo)

The $4.98 albums and tapes are what’s called a “loss leader” item, meaning they lose a certain amount of money for the store but bring in patrons who end up buying other items, ultimately increasing business and spurring profits.

The Last Place on Earth’s moneymakers are other albums priced at $7.50 and merchandise such as smoking paraphernalia, posters, T-shirts and martial arts supplies.

Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson, December 1985 (News-Tribune file photo)
Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson, December 1985 (News-Tribune file photo)

“I got the idea from a record magazine,” Carlson said. “A store in Florida did it and just increased business tremendously.”

The gambit has worked, he said. Since implementing it on March 4, the store’s fourth anniversary, “we’ve done almost as good as Christmas, and March should be a dead month.”

In the last year Carlson has increased his work force from four full-time employees to eight full-time and one part-time. His current location has three times the floor space and double the inventory of his old storefront, down the street a bit.

The record companies don’t mind his low prices, he said, “because if a kid goes up to Musicland he gets one record for $10. He comes down here and gets two records for $10, so they move twice as much product.”

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Last Place on Earth, as seen when it was located at 33 E. Superior St. in 1996. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune file photo)
Last Place on Earth, as seen when it was located at 33 E. Superior St. in 1996. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune file photo)

The Last Place on Earth was located at 102 E. Superior St. when that story ran in 1985; it had moved to 33 E. Superior St. — the building seen above — by 1994.

In 1996, that building was facing condemnation — it’s now the location of the Technology Village building — and Carlson moved a block down the street to 120 E. Superior St. That’s where Last Place on Earth would remain until it was shut down by authorities in 2013. Carlson is serving a 17½-year prison sentence on charges that he sold illegal synthetic drugs out of the building.

The building at 120 E. Superior St. now is slated to house a brewery and taproom for Blacklist Artisan Ales.

Some more photos of the Last Place on Earth buildings can be found below; click on any of the images with this post for a larger view. Share your stories and memories by posting a comment.

August 1994 view of Last Place on Earth, 33 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune file photo)
August 1994 view of Last Place on Earth, 33 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune file photo)
Last Place on Earth building at 120 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth, as seen in August 1996. (Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune file photo)
Last Place on Earth building at 120 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth, as seen in August 1996. (Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune file photo)
Last Place on Earth at 120 E. Superior St. in Duluth, as seen in July 2010. (Clint Austin / News Tribune file photo)
Last Place on Earth at 120 E. Superior St. in Duluth, as seen in July 2010. (Clint Austin / News Tribune file photo)
The building at 120 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth that formerly housed Last Place on Earth, as seen in May 2015. (Clint Austin / News Tribune file photo)
The building at 120 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth that formerly housed Last Place on Earth, as seen in May 2015. (Clint Austin / News Tribune file photo)

2 Responses

  1. Alexandra Rathe

    I grew up in those stores. Being the daughter of James Carlson, I will always be proud of my dad’s accomplishments. I love him dearly. I will cherish all the great memories we have made and look forward to making more in the future. You can take his material things away but you’ll never break his spirit. Stand strong dad, I love you.

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