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 Café 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.” ••