On Frankford Ave., vinyl can hit or miss

Two re­cord store own­ers weigh in on the mu­sic­al land­scape in Fishtown. 

  • Jacy Webster, owner of Record Exchange on Frankford Avenue, holds up a trophy find: “Gotta Survive” by Public Nuisance. SAM NEWHOUSE / STAR PHOTO

  • Cindy Hunt, inside her Record Lady store on Frankford Avenue, is getting ready to sell her stock and call it quits. SAM NEWHOUSE / STAR PHOTO

Jacy Web­ster, own­er of Re­cord Ex­change on Frank­ford Av­en­ue, said he be­lieves that Frank­ford Av­en­ue is the new South Street. 

ldquo;All the mu­si­cians used to live there, clubs used to be there. That all shif­ted to up here,” Web­ster said out­side his vinyl mu­sic shop on Frank­ford Av­en­ue near Ox­ford Street.

Web­ster re­cently moved his store from 5th and South streets to Fishtown. He opened up shop in June.

“The mar­ket’s get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter. People are really in­to vinyl,” Web­ster said. “We are strictly re­cords. CDs are on their way out. Keep get­ting re­cords in here, that’s our top pri­or­ity.”

Web­ster has a box of CDs on the floor of the store that he said cus­tom­ers don’t even touch any­more. Mu­sic lov­ers are more likely to buy an old cas­sette tape, “Wheth­er it’s The Beatles or Mud­honey,” he said.

But busi­ness hasn’t been as strong just a few blocks up Frank­ford Av­en­ue near Am­ber Street, where Cindy Hunt, own­er of Re­cord Lady, is pre­par­ing to close up shop after only four months.

“I’ve made no money,” Hunt said in the store last week, where all the vinyl was for sale at 50 per­cent off. “But it’s been an ex­tremely edu­ca­tion­al, eye-open­ing ex­per­i­ence. I wouldn’t give it up for any­thing, even though it cost me a for­tune and has taken up a ton of my time.”

Hunt, who also lived above her shop, will be tak­ing away fond memor­ies of the com­munity as she leaves her store and her apart­ment. She said that the East Kens­ing­ton Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation and the New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion were ex­tremely help­ful and sup­port­ive of all her ef­forts to get her busi­ness off the ground.

“We were open for the Trenton Av­en­ue Arts Fest­iv­al. We had three bands per­form, it was won­der­ful. I thought were at the be­gin­ning of re­cord store amazement,” Hunt said.

However, busi­ness nev­er picked up enough to cov­er her costs, she said.

Des­pite hav­ing a com­pet­ing busi­ness down the block, Phil­adelphia Re­cord Ex­change, Hunt said she be­lieved the two busi­nesses would help one an­oth­er. 

“I thought it might be a good thing – that it would make it a des­tin­a­tion for vinyl seekers,” Hunt said.

There are no hard feel­ings between the two busi­ness-own­ers, who know each oth­er and both like hav­ing an­oth­er vinyl store nearby, she said. 

“It could have worked,” Web­ster said of Hunt’s busi­ness. “But maybe it’s a little too far out of where people are will­ing to walk.”

Hunt al­most signed a lease at the store­front where Re­cord Ex­change is now loc­ated, but de­cided not to, to avoid go­ing through the pro­cess of ap­ply­ing for a zon­ing vari­ance. 

Hunt has sold mu­sic for 28 years, first in Down­ing­town, and then in Coates­ville, be­fore she came to Frank­ford Av­en­ue. She star­ted selling vinyl re­cords in the late 80s when they were the me­di­um of choice. When the rise of the CD came, she stuffed all of her vinyl in­to a back room, be­cause no one wanted it, she said. Now, things have come full circle – no one buys CDs any­more, while vinyl is one of the most pop­u­lar ways to listen to mu­sic.

Hunt her­self is an avid mu­sic fan, play­ing “Purple Rain” by Prince for her cus­tom­ers when Star vis­ited her shop.

“I like any­thing that makes you feel something – blues, or any old rock mu­sic where you know the guys were listen­ing to blues. And sad, ‘white girl’ mu­sic,” Hunt said.

While Re­cord Ex­change will soon be the only shop on Frank­ford Av­en­ue, it’s not the only one in the area. Milk­crate Caf&ea­cute; on East Gir­ard Av­en­ue sells vinyl in ad­di­tion to cof­fee. Bor­der­line Re­cords & Tapes is go­ing strong at 6th street and Gir­ard Av­en­ue. 

There may even be more vinyl shops com­ing soon, as long as people prefer the tactil­ity and dur­ab­il­ity of a vinyl re­cord to any oth­er mu­sic me­di­um.

“People are learn­ing that a re­cord is a re­cord,” Web­ster said. “It’s not like an iPod, where you lose it and your mu­sic’s gone. You’re go­ing have it forever. You can drop it; it will still play. It’s not like any­thing else – ex­cept for maybe stone tab­lets made by the Greeks.” ••

You can reach at snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.

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