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What is it about a bonafide brick-and-mortar record store that seems to endure? We live in an era of digitization in which music, movies and books are available through streaming and downloads. However, there are still people who like to touch and hold their music, and the ongoing vinyl revival shows us there are still reasons to be old-fashioned. It’s difficult to form a community off of streaming, purists say the sound quality of vinyl can’t be beat and electronic algorithms can only go so far in making recommendations. Here are our favorite Connecticut record stores, where the old is new again.
Integrity ’N Music
506 Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield, integritynmusic.com
A bit hard to find, this spot on the Silas Deane Highway has some of the best deals on records in the state. Hidden in the back of a nondescript plaza, this record store has one of the best selections of jazz in the state. Owner Ed Krech regularly takes in whole collections of jazz and blues, making this shop a dream for crate diggers and casual fans alike. Catch live jazz several times a month. (Update: Integrity 'N Music closed in early 2020.)
744 Main St., Willimantic, blog.willimanticrecords.com
This tucked-away gem featuring occasional live-music showcases is a vital part of cultural life in the eastern part of the state. Quirky and obscure vinyl is a strength, as is the low-key atmosphere.
19 Golden St., New London, telegraphnl.com
Newer than most of the stores on this list, The Telegraph is still trying to find its footing, according to co-owner Rich Martin. Part of finding its footing is holding regular shows (noticing a theme?), BYOB and “pass the hat” soirées on Saturdays, and a partnership with New London’s The Day newspaper for Live Lunch winter weekday matinees. An extensive indie rock section is probably the centerpiece, but there is also a big used punk section, and plenty of reggae and jazz.
24 N. Colony Road, Wallingford, redscrollrecords.com
At its best, a record store can be a hub for a larger scene — a gathering place or a focal point, like an old New England town hall. Since 2008, Redscroll Records has been just that for the state’s punk and hardcore music scene. Even before it was a brick-and-mortar store, Redscroll released local bands’ music on CD and vinyl, and continues to do so now. Be sure to check out the “Blackout at Sunrise” Black Friday deals after Thanksgiving.
Merle’s Record Rack
307 Racebrook Road, Orange, merlesrecordrack.com
Since opening in New Haven in 1962, Merle’s Record Rack has been a fixture in the Connecticut record world. At its peak, there were as many as 10 locations throughout the state. The last outpost is in Orange, where the store offers a variety of high-end audio equipment and turntables to accompany its vinyl offerings.
246 Federal Road, Brookfield, gerosarecords.com
Celebrating its 30th year, this shop has been through several iterations of the record market, according to owner Brian Gerosa. Gerosa himself has been selling records since he left high school, first working at the Record Broker in Danbury before opening his shop. “It’s important to have the day-to-day interaction with music,” he says of his 30 years at the store.
10 Steamboat Wharf, Mystic, mysticdisclp.com
This shoreline spot has been around for 33 years, with a stock that leans toward classic rock and blues among its mostly used selection. Owner Daniel Curland is quick to stress, however, that there is everything “from hard-bop to Nirvana and up.” The shop is completely vinyl based, eschewing the increasingly outdated medium of CDs.
2586 Whitney Ave., Hamden, replayrecords.net
As record stores moved away from vinyl in the 1990s, Replay Records said no. “We decided to continue our warm embrace of wax,” according to their website. After relocating from West Haven to Whitney Avenue in Hamden in 2007, the store celebrated 25 years in 2014. Both used and new records are available here.
Bonus tip: For nearly a decade, the annual Record Store Day has been celebrated on an April Saturday to bring together the thousands of independent record stores across the world and those who love them. Special vinyl releases are made specifically for the day, and various festivities are held to commemorate the day. In 2017, the 10th year, it will be held April 15. Record stores make a fun visit throughout the year, but Record Store Day is an occasion not to be missed.
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