Rough Trade And The Resurgence Of The Brooklyn Record Store


NO. 11

Rough Trade

And The Resurgence Of The Brooklyn Record Store

Have you heard about the record industry? It’s not doing so well! At least not according to a bunch of dreary-looking charts with titles like “The Record Industry is Dying.” But maybe the sad statisticians have gotten it wrong, at least here in Brooklyn, where there’s apparently enough demand to support the opening of four brand new record stores in the second half of 2013, including the massive new stateside outpost of London’s legendary Rough Trade record store empire.

“If music’s your religion, Rough Trade’s your church,” says co-owner Stephen Godfroy, referring to the 15,000-square-foot superstore and concert venue that overtook a former film-props warehouse on N. 9th Street in late November. It’s a big-swing of 90s proportions, the kind of venture you don’t see much of in these belt-tightening times, but Godfroy and his partners are counting on starry-eyed idealism—plus a multi-pronged business plan—to help pull it off. “We don’t think of it simply as a store,” he says. “It’s a place for culture worshipers to congregate and celebrate the wonders of artistic expression.”

There was no question of where they’d begin their expansion. “Williamsburg was our only thought,” Godfroy says, which isn’t to say they rushed into it. In fact, it was four years in the making. “We have the opportunity to be bolder and more inventive in evolving what a record store could—and should—provide in this post-digital age,” he says.

With food and drink on hand, courtesy of Greenpoint café Five Leaves; a 300-capacity space to host free in-store performances and after-hours ticketed shows booked by Mercury Lounge talent buyer Sebastian Freed; and little touches like what Godfroy refers to as the “Tweet deck,” a perch overlooking the store, an ideal spot for customers to engage with the social media of their choice, Rough Trade makes the bankrupt megastores of recent memory seem like unfulfilled promises.

Other newcomers to Brooklyn’s record store scene have taken a more cautious approach. Bushwick additions Vinyl Fantasy (194 Knickerbocker Ave.) and Human Head (168 Johnson Ave.) cater to the devoted crate-digger, stocking mostly used vinyl and providing a neighborly touch. (“Friendly advice upon request, with minimal smart-assery,” reads the Human Head website.) Homegrown record label Captured Tracks (195 Calyer St., Greenpoint) has opened a brick-and-mortar space, expanding on its constantly rotating stock of vinyl, CDs and tapes with art books, posters, vintage pedals, amps, synthesizers and whatever else strikes owner Mike Sniper’s fancy.

Godfroy offers one possible explanation for the recent boom. “A store is for people with a sense of touch, those of curious mind,” he says. “Despite the merits of online shopping, that still counts for a lot.” Especially, he and others hope, in culture-obsessed Brooklyn.  

Rough Trade, 64 N. 9th Street, Williamsburg

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