BY TARA SMITH
Over 30,000 vinyl records and CDs line the walls of the new Record Stop at 30 Railroad Avenue, tempting you to spend hours browsing the shelves.
The brick-and-mortar location, which opened last Friday, is a testament to recent studies that show vinyl records are outselling digital downloads for the first time since the early ‘90s, when Nirvana was still making music and no one had ever heard of Justin Bieber. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl record sales in the United States reached $416 million in 2015. “It’s still a small industry, but it’s growing — or regrowing — at a crazy rate,” said Record Stop owner Jeff Berg.
It’s great news for music fans, especially the diehard ones that couldn’t let Record Stop go.
Berg’s father, Bruce Berg, owned the beloved Record Stop location in Ronkonkoma for nearly 40 years. “My father started as a Long Island hippie from Massapequa,” Berg said, adding that Bruce sold 8-tracks and records roadside until opening the flagship store on Portion Road. In the early 2000s, Berg noticed that record sales were declining, as other formats were taking over, so he created an online shop before eventually closing the store in 2009.
The “shop” moved into storage on Ramsey Road in Shirley; Record Stop regulars followed them there. “It wasn’t really set up like a retail store, but we slowly decorated and tried to categorize it,” Berg said.
When Bruce retired in 2015, Berg knew the timing was right to expand. “Around the country, ‘the record store’ is kind of coming back,” he said. Berg found the 5,000-square-foot space on Railroad Avenue that used to be home to an auto diagnostic shop and before that, a fuel company. “I gutted everything completely,” he said.
The shop carries both new and used vinyl, CDs and other merchandise, with a focus on relevancy. “We have a long history and knowledge of all different types of music, with a good jump on what’s popular,” Berg said. “But we also still focus on the classics — rock, punk, heavy metal — Long Island kind of classics.”
Listening to vinyl, Berg said, is once again catching on. “It started with the hipsters, besides the people who never stopped,” he joked. “Some people have a cheap little player and five vinyls and that’s good enough for them, and some people are obsessed and have 5,000 vinyls,” he said, describing his range of customers.
Berg finds himself somewhere in-between. “I use CDs in the car, I have vinyl at home to enjoy over a glass of wine and I also stream. I think [all formats] are important,” he said. He added that he thinks vinyl has resurged due to more people looking for experiences in lieu of just a product. “A lot of our customers just like to talk to each other; they hang out, like in a cafe or coffee shop,” Berg said. “It’s fun to watch them come in, talk to each other about music and recommend albums to each other.”
Even during last week’s soft opening in pouring rain, a dozen or so people perused the records in the shop. Alex Vegas, 38, from Bellport, left with a half-dozen used records. “I’m into everything from the ‘70s. There’s a few gems in here,” he said, showing off his haul. Vegas said that the new shop is convenient, since he usually travels into Brooklyn and Manhattan to find records to add to his collection. He remembers shopping at the Ronkonkoma store 10 years ago, and his collection has grown even more since then. “The authenticity of the sound, the way the microphones are positioned next to the instruments … you hear all of that. And the cover artwork has its own magic,” Vegas said, describing why he loves listening to records.
David Kennedy, executive director of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce, could also be found searching for records on Friday morning. “I wanted to be the first one in the door,” he said, noting how excited he was to see a record store return to Patchogue. “[Record Stop] was my go-to place when I was looking for something harder to find in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It was like a second home to me,” he said of the original Ronkonkoma location.
To Kennedy, Record Stop opening fits in perfectly to the identity Patchogue has taken on. “We’re all about a younger audience and record stores have always been a meeting place for youth in the community,” he said. “We’re on the cutting edge as vinyl has a resurgence and the record store is once again finding a place in a business district.”
Having a built-in audience is another plus. “If they can attract a crowd like that right off the bat on a day like this, that says something,” Kennedy added.
Berg said that he plans to host an official grand opening event later this month, with live music. He hopes to follow up with smaller events such as acoustic sets, band signings and record releases in the future.
Currently, Record Stop is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Photo Caption: Record Stop opened in Patchogue last week.
Photo by Tara Smith
*This story was originally published in the Long Island Advance, May 11, 2017.