Vinyl records are experiencing 40% or so annual growth in sales, yet true record stores are still few and far between. Only two such stores are within a reasonable driving distance from my home: Star Records in Oshawa and Zap Records in Cobourg. Recently I published a post about my experience at Star Records who maintain a very strict adherence to old school principles.
My fiancé has family in Cobourg and I went along for the ride in order to check out Zap Records while she went shopping with her Mother. Being a typical male, I only like shopping in motorcycle, cigar, camera, butchers and record stores. So, naturally, this was a fine way to spend an afternoon. My first impression of Zap Records was very positive and I have no hesitation recommending them to any music lover or vinyl record collector.
Zap Records manifests the best aspects of a true record store, such as a non-corporate culture, a quirky, unique and relaxed atmosphere as well as being tailored for music geeks by a music geek. Unlike Star Records, Zap Records makes some concessions to the 21st century. Specifically, they run a website, a facebook page and accept credit and debit cards as payment. Personally I like this balance and it creates a more convenient experience.
Zap’s facebook page is very nicely done and contains a wealth of music information, trivia, history and nostalgia. It’s more than just marketing, it is the manifestation of someone who truly loves music. It’s a great resource that I will check out from time to time.
The store is relatively small and contains a sprawling treasure trove of new and used records and some used CD’s. They also have a good selection of counter culture t-shirts and assorted mementos. Over a dozen customers filled the narrow aisles and they were a mixture of old, young and middle aged people. I think it’s great to see several generations literally rub shoulders together as they shuffle around looking for their own musical nuggets.
In my brief time at Zap’s, I was impressed by the owner’s encyclopedic knowledge of various musical genres which became apparent as he talked with customers. He strikes me as the sort of person who establishes long term relationships and trust with his regular clientele. This is exactly the sort of experience completely absent from digital downloads, purchasing CD’s from a big box store (ugh!) or Amazon. I would rather get insight from an experienced human expert instead of some algorithm that makes suggestions based on one’s online purchases and web browsing habits. Pattern matching software has its benefits, but has absolutely no soul, understanding or intuition. Another nice human touch was the owner’s beagle asleep near the cash register. Any business a proprietor or employee can bring their pet to work gets a big thumbs up from me.
Although millennials are driving up record sales, there must be countless retirees who have not embraced the digital age and still live in an analog world. No doubt they would still see vinyl records as a familiar way to listen to music. There was a distinguished British man, apparently in his early 70’s shopping around for classical music. His apparel and accent bespoke of a man who is cultured, educated and worldly. This was quite a contrast in style from the 20 something year olds looking for music from earlier generations — yet there is still some convergence. I overhead the British gentleman and the owner discussing music from the 1960’s. As turns out he was living in England during the height of the “British Invasion” and psychedelic scene. In his younger years, he had the privilege of seeing live performances by Jimmy Hendrix, the Beatles, The Kinks and more. This impressed the owner who also wanted to know if the gentleman had original rock and roll records from the 1960’s in good condition and offered to buy them at top dollar. Such recordings will fetch hundreds per album among well heeled collectors.
My budget is far more modest and I picked up some great used vinyl for my own eclectic collection.
- The Stranglers – Feline (1983)
- The Edgar Winter Group – They Only Come Out At Night (1972)
- Los Lobos – By The Light Of The Moon (1987)
- Leon Redbone – Double Time (1977)
- Les Paul and Mary Ford – Lover’s Luau (1959)
- The Ventures – A Go Go (1965)
- Buddy Rich – Drummer’s Drummer (1979)
- Fontanna And His Orchestra, René Duval – Cafe Continental (1965)