5 SPOT: Top NYC Record Stores We Wish Were Still Open
Record Store Day has arrived! With all of the events planned around keeping record stores alive, I can’t help but remember some of my favorites that have closed in recent years. The ones closest to my heart were the ones in my neighborhood like the record shop inside of Jersey City’s Hudson Mall that carried CDs and DVDs, but more importantly sold rare memorabilia for some of the biggest acts of the 1980's and 1990's. What made it so special for me, was that they had so much Michael Jackson stuff before it was cool (read: profitable) to have it; pre-2009 it was the only place I could find MJ pins, posters, concert pictures, and DVDs since every other music store only carried his greatest hits or nothing at all. Now that I find myself in Manhattan more than back home, there’s so many record stores that I wished I had patronized before they closed. This top 5 is listed in no particular order, but each record shop, whether big or small, represents different facets of the music scene and holds a special place in the hearts of those lucky enough to have visited.
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An iconic symbol of Greenwich village, Bleecker Bob’s (officially Bleecker Bob’s Golden Oldies) stood for 46 years serving rare vinyls and in its early stages hard to find punk rock albums. It was so ingrained in the NYC scene that it appeared in an episode of “Seinfeld” and became both a tourist attraction and a home for rock aficionados. Like most buildings in the area, Bleecker Bob’s was forced out in 2013 by outrageously high rent prices and a downturn in physical sales.
Opening in the mid-1990s, Fat Beats was the ultimate place for hip-hop heads in NYC to venture to. With walls covered in signed photos and posters of the biggest names in hip-hop, Fat Beats dubbed itself “the last stop for hip-hop” that hip-hop artists (both underground and mainstream), serious rap fans, DJs, and the curious bystander had to visit. Fat Beats became more of a community than just a shop and when it closed it doors in 2010 due to low sales, it represented the end of an era.
Specializing in Ska, Reggae, and Rocksteady, Jammyland prided itself on being the place to find rare vinyl of legendary Jamaican music. Encouraging fans to dive deep into the sounds of the Caribbean, Jammyland is where you went to find your new favorite reggae song, even if it came out decades before you were born. Filled with boxes full of unopened products, 45s and CDs, DVDs, band memorabilia, posters, and rare items, Jammyland was different from other reggae shops with its penchant for offering extremely rare and obscure sounds from the ‘60s and ‘70s. With a decrease in customers and an increase in rent, Jammyland was forced to close in 2008.
Now the home of Forever 21, the Times Square Virgin Megastore was definitely not a mom and pop, specialty store. At a whopping 180,000 square feet the megastore was in the heart of Times Square -- attracting huge numbers of people who searched for CDs and posters by the biggest names in the world. What it lacked in intimacy it made up for in star power; at its height Virgin Megastore hosted CD signings by the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, OutKast, Paul McCartney, and Michael Jackson. Though it was reportedly the highest music volume store in the U.S. (with annual sales at around $55 million) it was unable to keep up with the high rent and demand of the Giuliani Disneyfied Times Square it once helped illuminate. The store shut down in 2009.
Big City Records
Specializing in hip-hop, soul, funk, and disco vinyl, Big City Records was a haven for DJs, collectors, and lovers of hip-hop. Closing down in 2012, the community feel (that was so common to almost every shop on this list) was more of the hardest loss of all. With the ability to run into and have conversations with legendary DJs like DJ Scratch and the shop’s onwer Jared Boxx, Big City Records was a place to have real conversations and debates about hip hop with people who knew just as much, if not more, than you do.