RECORD STORES: What Does & Does Not Make a Good One

Lists, lists, lists, we all love lists. You can’t exhale anymore without some magazine having a list, countdown or some numerical declaration of some type or another on the stands. 100 greatest this, 50 most overlooked that, the 25 most well groomed genital areas of the Cleveland Parking Department Staff, blah, blah, blah. As we know not all lists are created equal and if my suspicions are correct some lists are not created at all – they are thrown together by lazy slugs who do nothing but bump around the inter-webs for ten minutes and then maybe make a phone call to their buddy who’s “an expert”.
Recently a list of “coolest record stores” made the rounds in some disposable rag and well, I cannot hold my tongue any longer. As Godard said, "The only way to critique a film is to make another film."  So I am going to make my own list of what does and does not make a “cool record store”. And to answer that question: yes I AM a goddamn expert on the matter, trust me. I’m talking Antiques Road Show-Weirdo Effeminate Twins-talking about furniture- kind of expert. I’ve been across our great lands and that is basically all I do – go to record stores, not to mention that the field has paid for the house I live in, the car I drive, and the degree that does not hang on my wall (where’d I put that thing?) Ironically about the only thing the vocation of record stores has not paid for is a lot of the music I own (ah, perks) and the 1 of 643 free t-shirts I’m wearing right now.

I’ll just kick things off with three samples for each department and let you take it from there (in the comment section, of course):

DOES NOT (make a cool record store)
Size – just because the place is the size of a freaking JC Penny that doesn’t make it any good. If I need a golf cart and 11 hours to mull through it chances are it’s compensating for something. Yes, you could stock all 253 available Merzbow CD’s & Puddle Of Mud belt buckles but who gives a crap?

Location – Being in a hipster city, in a hipster neighborhood does not automatically translate into “cool record store”. It translates into name-drops and microbrewery bar hoppers trolling the world music section. Wow. 

Age – Existing since 1907 could just mean the rent’s cheap. Larry King is 101 years old and he ain’t cool either. These are usually the joints where the staff consist of stereotypical jackbags who are either 24 year-old white-bread indie dorks with a slight mixture of dusty old men in ponytails who order every prog reissue import. Points for survival, however.

DOES (help make a cool record store)
Having a focus – I’ve been to record stores the size of my kitchen that sold one style of music. I didn’t spend a penny, but it was a cool store full of pride and passion. Gimme that over some “rep” and/or an airplane hanger with a cash register any day.

Giving a Shit – the smart shopper can spot this valuable trait right away. You walk in and know that somebody cares…cares about you and the music. The crew being nice and smelling good go a long way in my book as well.

A Look – a place has to have something going on for the eye. I’m certainly not talking style over substances here but nothing sucks more than walking into a “cool record store” you’ve heard all about and it could be any nameless strip-mall rent-a-center maze of bins and grey industrial carpet. And that Hendrix poster on the wall for $45 does not count as “a look”.

The rest is up to you. Have at it. We’re talking generalities here not whoring and plugs abound, M’kay?  SO ALL NAMES WERE LEFT OUT OF THIS POST TO PROTECT EVERYTHING AND EVERYBODY.

*It should be duly noted that many of the shops on the list mentioned were genuinely great and well deserving of their props.