I live in a pretty eclectic area. There’s an abundance of Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian restaurants; used clothing stores litter the boulevard; a patchwork of people cruise the streets at all hours. Mike and I take Rusty on frequent walks through the neighborhood, enjoying the snug craftsman houses and lush yards packed with native plants, as well as the colorful rush of humanity.

A few weeks back, we first discovered the record store. A tiny closet of an establishment, it sells used music from the ages before iPods and streaming. The scruffy proprietor agreed Rusty could accompany us into the shabby looking store, and we split to divide and conquer.

The presence of music from my childhood immediately charmed me. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. All the RageThe Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Even the I Wanna Dance with Somebody single my mom used to put on while sweating it out with Jane Fonda in the living room.

Mike, on the other hand, went right to the 8-tracks.

“Nat! I used to have one of these!” he called to me excitedly. “Did I tell you about it? My 8-track player?”

“Yes,” I replied, wandering over.

“Man, I used to sit and listen to music for hours on that thing,” he said, hypnotized by the square cartridges that now belong to folklore and age-based jokes.

“We didn’t have one. My parents had a record player.”

Since I’d already regaled him with stories about my parents’ rather intimidating record collection, I went back to thumbing through stacks of faded albums. I felt a little smile play at the corners of my mouth, remembering the first time I put on Led Zeppelin’s IV, finding “Battle of Evermore” and “Stairway to Heaven” in the grooves. We weren’t allowed to touch the record player, but at fifteen I had little use for rules, especially ones having to do with music. Thus, when I chanced to have the house to myself I’d play songs you couldn’t really hear on the radio anymore, fascinated with the pops and crackles imbedded in the music.

After we’d left, we both silently continued on our walk, each wrapped up in our cozy memories of youth. As I considered returning to pick up used copies of Vs. and In Utero to replace my tape cassettes, a thought interrupted my mental filing system.

“Mike, how do you think a used record store stays in business? I mean, yeah, this is a pretty hipster area, but still? A record store?”

Mike suggested reasonably, “Maybe it belongs to the owner of the building and he can afford to keep it open at a loss.”

“Yeah, maybe,” I said, unconvinced.

I mean, sure we were charmed by the place, but we didn’t buy anything. I couldn’t imagine out of date technology, no matter how cool, could be a lucrative trade.

Then I decided on my catchall conclusion for unquantifiable financial success:

“They probably deal drugs out of the back,” I said, half-joking, half-not.

Mike caught the cue. “Oh, totally. Did you smell the weed when we walked in?”

I guess you can put a price tag on nostalgia, I thought to myself.


Led Zeppelin IV. I didn’t understand how over-played “Stairway” was until much older.

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The Local Record Store — 38 Comments

  1. I was just going to write a post about my local record store! I’ll probably get to it later tonight but in the meantime, I think the owner of mine sells a lot online to collectors to offset the meager foot traffic.
    Ellen recently posted…New Town VelocityMy Profile

  2. This is awesome. Honestly I wonder about how a lot of places turn over a profit and the drug idea usually answers most questions. But how do you explain how upscale children’s boutiques stay in business in posh areas? Black market ritalin sales? Who knows…
    Pam recently posted…If at First You Don’t Succeed…My Profile

  3. I have some of my Grandmother’s records and her record player (both of them, actually, though only one works). I used to listen to storybook records at her house, the beginning of my love for audiobooks! 🙂
    Love this post!
    Tamara T. recently posted…What do you do?My Profile

  4. My record player is broken, so my records just sit in the garage aging. I do miss the sound. Abbey Road by the Beatles is nowhere near as good on CD as it is on my record. But I can’t justify buying a $100+ record player, when I also need a CD player, a subwoofer, etc. Digital music has made me accept subpar music. The audiophile in me cries, but the cheapskate just accepts it.

    I do love used music stores, though. Always a good find.
    Chris Plumb recently posted…To Tip or not to Tip, That is the Question.My Profile

  5. I finally got a record player again a few years ago after lugging my record collection in milk crates from place to place for almost two decades. So great to hear those pops and hisses again. I spent a lot of time in my teenage years in a used record store called “Integrity and Music.” How great is that name? The owner got to know my tastes and would set aside out-of-print gems for me.
    Marcy recently posted…Hiking the Inca Trail, Day 4: Race to the Sun Gate and Machu PicchuMy Profile

  6. Haha! Those last lines are so funny. And I’m sure the sensory…bonus only made accentuated the experience. 😉 I hardly ever see mom & pop record stores anymore and I miss them. Ahh…Battle of Evermore…great, great tune. We both have Led Zep on the brain this week! I love the way you described the experience of listening to music on vinyl. Well said and spot on. Nothing like that crackle.
    Linda Roy recently posted…100 Word Song: Counting StarsMy Profile

  7. When I was a kid, we had a combine with an 8 track player. I had one of those convertor things so I could play my cassettes in the darned thing.

    Now I’m thinking about digging through my moms old record and 8 track collection of mostly ancient country western singers to see if there’s any gems in there I’ve forgotten about.
    Ken recently posted…#165. or, ElusiveMy Profile

  8. I love getting nostalgic about music. My dad always used to play Elvis in the car, so that’s my childhood music. Even though all my friends say I’m too young for that haha.

    We have a store where I live that sells records – but they also sell CDs as well so that’s probably how they keep in business. I don’t think many people even own a record player anymore. I think even my Grandad got rid of his recently (my Dad has introduced him to CDs and DVDs so all his old records and video tapes have got to go!) That last part was hilarious.
    Amy recently posted…Bus Travel BluesMy Profile

  9. I didn’t even know there WERE still record stores. Truly. And actually, the fact that they are still called “record” stores probably doesn’t bode well for their continued existence, either. But, you totally should have bought Vs. & In Utero. Oh man, now that I think about it, they are almost CLASSICS. Thanks, now I feel like a dinosaur! :p
    Misty recently posted…Prepping for the Big KMy Profile

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