Tucked between a two hundred and fifty year old hotel and a storefront lined with locally made wares, you’ll find House of Wax: Frenchtown, New Jersey’s first modern record shop. It’s a gorgeous day in this little river town (just a short drive north from New Hope, Pennsylvania) when I step into the store on a Sunday afternoon.
Today, there are new sections of expertly rated, labeled, and organized vinyl, a growing spread of vintage turntables, and even more album art squeezed (tastefully) into the remaining space left on HOW’s bright green walls. It’s all a great sign, and one I’ve even come to expect each time I visit. Owners Derrek Wismer and Kyle Perkins are both in today, manning the counter. Chatting with these gents reveals HOW’s (pretty awesome) roots: Wismer explains that their now-established store was actually born of the Internet, after he and Perkins sold enough limited edition records on eBay to take the plunge on a lease. Woah, wait—the web put you into business, instead of taking all of your sales?
“We saw people doing it and thought, hell, why can’t we?” Wismer laughs. “We could buy a Windhand album for $8 and sell it for $25. We shipped them for free, and all over Norway, Sweden.”
After about a year and a half of web selling, the two music fanatics fell into their current Frenchtown digs. Wismer notes that it’s an open niche market here, and somewhat more affordable than the surrounding areas. “Town has been really great,” he beams.
Perkins and Wismer have only continued to fill the shop with scores of varied albums since then. “Normally we get our used records from people who bring them in to us, but we also get them from flea markets, yard sales, and rummage sales,” says Perkins. “The new records we either get from online distribution or directly from the record label.”
It’s all a somewhat unusual win for present-day vinyl retail, but perhaps not as rare as it had become once the industry shifted to digital. New record shops are now popping up in major areas like Brooklyn (where Rough Trade London has opened a sister store) and in smaller historical cities like Easton, where Used Grooves set up camp last summer. There’s also been continued success among the established stores like The Princeton Record Exchange, and Siren Records of Doylestown. And it’s not just our area bringing records back–if you’re ever in Deep Ellum, Texas, stop by Off the Record. This brand new space gives music lovers 20 draft beers to choose from while browsing for tunes. (Now there’s an idea the rockers of the vinyl age would be proud of.)