There Is No Cat

As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly

Friday, March 28, 2008

College record stores are dying

There's a very sad article from AP about how record stores in college towns are shutting down. The advent of the Internet has made it impossible for many to continue.

A couple of my favorite stores in my old stomping grounds of State College, Pennsylvania, get shout outs. Arboria is closed. I spent a lot of time and money there in my years in State College. My friend Josh, who did the blues program at the campus radio station where I worked, was the manager there. They carried mostly used stuff (all vinyl back then), but had one wall of new records. A lot of them were cheap imports of dubious quality from places like Italy. My first copy of The Soft Boys' Underwater Moonlight was one of those. I certainly couldn't afford to pay for the UK import at the time. Arboria was great.

The owner of City Lights Records is quoted in the article. I'm glad to see they're still around, even if they're hanging on by a thread. They opened up in my last year in State College, around 1985. They focused more on new merchandise than used, so they were a nice complement to Arboria. I remember buying the first Yo La Tengo single there, before anyone had heard of them. I hadn't heard of them either, but they were from Hoboken, and that was good enough for me. The single wasn't even in the racks yet; it was in a pile of a dozen or so singles sitting on the counter that the owner hadn't gotten around to filing yet, just in that day.

As a fan of obscure music, I always found that the indie stores in college towns were the best places to go. I always made an effort whenever I travelled to seek them out. I guess that's not going to be such an effective tactic any more.

I think I'm going to have to make a music run to Other Music at lunch time....


Posted at 3:07 AM


Note: I’m tired of clearing the spam from my comments, so comments are no longer accepted.

I remember fondly my old indie record store when I was at college. The Record Connection it was called, and it's still there. I don't know what it's like now, but glad to see it's still going after all these years.

They weren't just selling records, they were introducing whole new generations of kids to music. The guy behind the counter felt it was his personal duty to introduce me to new stuff, and it was through him that I first heard the Meat Puppets, Circle Jerks, Minutemen, Husker Du, Butthole Surfers. I don't really listen to that music anymore, but it certainly made a huge impression on me at that age.

So sad to see the old record stores going... I wonder what sort of online equivalent has replaced them?

Posted by deb at 5:28 AM, March 28, 2008 [Link]

...and this comes at the same time the venerable Schoolkids Records in Chapel Hill, NC ( has closed as well.

My own college record stores, the Record Runners in Syracuse, Buffalo and Ithaca closed decades ago. I have many fond memories of making treks to all three for Bob Dylan bootlegs and the like.

And don't even get me started on the closure of Other Music in Cambridge....

Posted by nc-jay at 9:29 AM, March 28, 2008 [Link]

Sheesh, that'll teach me to comment before I read the linked story! Ralph, feel free to ignore or delete my first paragraph above :)

Posted by nc-jay at 9:30 AM, March 28, 2008 [Link]

Cheap Thrills and Music in a Different Kitchen closed ages ago in New Brunswick. The latter was opened by Smithereens guitarist Jim Babjek and then sold to the drummer of a local band.

Princeton Record Exchange seems to still be around, but I haven't been there in ages. Maybe I should make a trip to remind me of what it was like to roam a record store.

Too bad the CD is considered a buggy whip nowadays, but it is true.

Like the old saying goes, the bandwidth of a truck full of CDs is definitely high, but I think the problem is latency. Da yoot just don't have the patience to actually go to a store on Tuesdays.

Posted by lilbro at 10:10 AM, March 28, 2008 [Link]

Wow, I'm shocked Albums On The Hill is still in business. That was my college record store. All The Rage was more classic "college" though -- they carried the attitude, while AOTH they were a bunch of laid-back stoners.

Here in Seattle, only Cellophane Square survives on the Ave.

Posted by dw at 10:17 AM, March 28, 2008 [Link]

My college town record store was St. Mark's Sounds. I think it's still there.

Posted by The XYL at 4:10 PM, March 28, 2008 [Link]

Princeton Record Exchange is indeed still around. I was there earlier today. They have a big sign right outside the entrance saying that they've just signed a new lease on their building and they plan on being around to serve their customers for many years.

I don't think I ever made it to the Other Music in Cambridge, Jay, but the one on the lower east side in Manhattan still seems to be going strong. I hope so, anyway; too many of my favorite records stores, like 3rd Street Jazz in Philadelphia and Pier Platters in Hoboken, and the above-mentioned Cheap Thrills and Music in a Different Kitchen in New Brunswick, are long gone. I wouldn't worry too much about CDs in Cambridge, though; between Newbury Comics, In Your Ear, and Twisted Village, all within a block or so of Harvard Square, I think you can probably find pretty much anything you want there. At least those were the stores that were open when we were walking around Harvard Square last spring.

Deb, I think the "online equivalent" would be Napster, iTunes Music Store, and whatever underground file sharing network has replaced Oink when it was busted back in October. (I never used Oink, but one of my current co-workers tells me it was where he got all his music in the past year or two.)

Posted by ralph at 6:00 PM, March 29, 2008 [Link]

Like the old saying goes, the bandwidth of a truck full of CDs is definitely high, but I think the problem is latency. Da yoot just don't have the patience to actually go to a store on Tuesdays.

Posted by Max at 12:44 PM, May 13, 2008 [Link]

If memory serves, Jim Babjak did not open Music in a Different Kitchen. Jim owned a video store (Captain Video?) on Easton Avenue. I believe this venue was sold to Ethan Stein when the Smithereens became Jim's full time gig.

Posted by steve kaplan at 8:23 PM, May 27, 2012 [Link]


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