If you believe that old 33 rpm records are as outdated as the rotary phone or televisions with antennas you may want to think again.
Big Jim’s Records, with locations in Hawthorne and Buchanan, is proof there’s still demand for vinyl records despite all sorts of ways for music to be delivered.
“People think records came back. The never went away, quite honestly,” said Jim Gibson, owner of Big Jim’s Records. “I did not stop selling records from the ‘80s to the present. What I sold was records. I did sell CDs because there was a lot of stuff that came out that wasn’t on record. Most of the Whitney Houston records are not made on record, they are on CD, and some of the other top people.”
Gibson, who previously had a store in Manhattan that also served as an art gallery and later a location in Cold Spring, opened his Hawthorne store on Elwood Avenue last year. It came two years after he got back into the business following some health issues by launching a location in Buchanan on Albany Post Road, not far from his Peekskill home.
Originally, Gibson, a collector who has been in the record business for most of the past 35 years, was going to use that space to run his mail order record business. But the retail side flourished forcing Gibson to find more room.
“There hadn’t been a record store in the area for a long time,” he said. “I didn’t know how many people would be interested and there’s still a lot of people that are (interested) quite a lot, and it’s been a great time so far.”
Between the two locations, Gibson estimates that he has about 40,000 records, with almost any genre of music represented at all price points, starting at under $5.
However, his bread and butter are the rock albums from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, mostly the 33 rpm records, although he does carry a small collection of 45s and CDs. His merchandise also includes concert posters and other memorabilia.
Much of Gibson’s inventory of used records he’s collected over the years he bought from other collectors or the public.
“What am I looking for? Stuff that I don’t know, stuff that wasn’t a hit,” said Gibson, who grew up in Yonkers. “If it wasn’t a hit, chances are there is someone looking for it today. If it wasn’t a hit but was good, especially if it was from the ‘60s or early ‘70s, there’s a very good chance someone is looking for it today.”
The Velvet Underground was an example of that phenomenon, Gibson said. The band formed in the mid-1960s featuring Lou Reed but was never much of a commercial success. They have been considered one of the most influential rock bands of all time.
Then there are the popular but hard-to-find albums. Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” sold millions of copies but it was the first pressing from England that had a solid blue triangle on the label that is in high demand.
A good copy of Jazz legend John Coltrane’s “Love Supreme” could be had for as little as $10 at one time. Not anymore, Gibson said.
“It was not a hard-to-find record,” he said. “Now it’s $300 and good luck trying to find one because people are holding onto it.”
Gibson uses his decades of experience to anticipate what the public is looking for. He is also attuned to what customers tell him. And the store isn’t just for older folks taking a trip down memory lane. Many younger customers stop in to buy or browse after they hear a song they like.
“It’s trial and error,” Gibson said. “People come in here and compliment me quite a bit on my collection. I’ve been doing this a long time.”
Big Jim’s Records in Hawthorne is located at 383 Elwood Ave and is open Monday through Saturday from 12 to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. The Buchanan location is at 399 Albany Post Rd. and is open Wednesday to Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.bigjimsrecords.com.