Record Store Guide
It's important to understand my biases so let me present my interests as a series of concentric circles with stuff on the inside of most interest. Right in the center and closest to my heart is early 90's rave, house and techno. A little further out are house and techno in general; then disco, boogie and italo-disco 12" singles. So the inner core is all 12" singles. Just outside that are compilations of global sounds (especially from the 70's) that have really flooded the market recently. They are lovingly done and the original music is next to impossible to find in the US so they get priority of place. On the outer edges you'll find reggae 7"s, disco LP's, techno compilations, jungle 12"s. Though my musical interests are wide, I don't buy rock or jazz or pretty much any other kind of music on vinyl.
As everyone knows if you really want to find some bargains you have to visit Goodwill's or know people that will let you dig through their warehouse. Anyway, I'm not a true digger so you won't find any secret spots here.
With that out of the way, let's see what's out there.
One more thing, I don't venture out to these places that often so a lot of the information may be outdated.
Located in Hampden just south of 36th Street (aka the Avenue) on Hickory Avenue. Been around for a while now. It's a fairly small space now. The proprietor is a well known experimental musician in the Baltimore scene. There's a little room where local synth-builder Karl fixes electronics and there may be a few of his creations for sale. The place definitely has character. The selection changes, the prices are good. Open every day.
I like how this store is in the back of another store. It's been in the back of Atomic Books for a few years now. So once you check out True Vine, wander over here. Atomic Books itself is well worth a visit. As far as selection - this store is mainly punk oriented but anything can turn up. The condition is pretty good and prices are decent.
Located on Aliceanna a little east of Broadway. It's a small space made practically impassable by stacks of vinyl. There's vinyl in the cabinets, vinyl on top of cabinets in crates, vinyl on top of the vinyl in crates, vinyl under the tables, vinyl on the walls, vinyl on the floor - you get the picture. I've seen some really cool stuff here from underground techno to german minimal to uk breakbeat. The prices are a little high but last time I visited a lot of it wasn't priced yet so maybe you can do a deal. It's in a touristy sort of area - Fells Point - so if you are coming from out of town you'll have more reasons to visit the area (also some good Mexican restaurants are nearby). Open 12-7 (everyday).
Run by a curmudgeon of the sort you may have heard about in things like "High Fidelity" but that I actually do not run into very often. He comes across some good DJ collections so I've picked up some good 80's and early 90's stuff for a reasonable price. Not really organized in any way and it doesn't seem to keep regular hours. It's also located in fells Point, not far from "El Suprimo".
I ran into this store by accident as it is located in Federal Hill, a neighborhood that feels very separate from the rest of Baltimore. Though it has a lot of restaurants, store and historical interest so it's worth a visit. The store itself reminded me of True Vine in the old days. Boxes of records in an empty room. I found some great house 12" for dirt cheap. Uncertain hours.
This store is rather crap for dance music. High prices, unimpressive selection that does not seem to change. They do have lots of other stuff - a big jazz section, interesting experimental records. A friend scored some early 80's ambient for a pretty good price. They also have a huge book selection. Located off Greenmount Avenue on 31th street not far from Charles Village / Johns Hopkins. Open every day.
Once a month (third Sunday of every month) at the Arbutus Firehouse (right off beltway exit 12A) there is a record show with dealers from all over the place. It mostly caters to the 60's/70's LP collectors. I found only a handful of tables with 12" singles but one of them paid off bigtime. I found some good rare disco stuff and pretty cheap too.
I've only been here once, probably around 2008 or so. Haven't been back. Why? Ridiculous prices, crappy condition of the records. Located on Park Avenue near Mulberry street. Not really much reason to be in the neighborhood either.
Gone, But Not Forgotten
This was the major store for house/techno in Baltimore for a while. "Atomic Books" started off as an adjunct to it when they were in Mount Vernon. Later this store moved to Highland Park where I visited it in 2004 just before it closed. Must have been a scene center much like 611 Records in Philly also sadly gone now.
This store didn't stay around for long. It had a very small inventory, mostly experimental stuff. It was located smack in the middle of Mt. Vernon. They are perhaps more remembered for throwing the Once.Twice festival for a couple of years (last time in 2004). I did get a Sahko 12" from here.
I only got to visit this as it was closing down. It was dedicated to dance records. Pretty big place for what it was. It was off Lovegrove (as in the well known Baltimore DJ) Street. I think the owner now sells privately. He is/was a nightclub DJ, can't remember the name though.
Before my time. softgraffiti reports:
It was a small shop dowtown that specialized in Bmore club 12"s but also had hip hop. I think they closed in the late 90s
They used to have a Baltimore location but that closed in 2008 or so. It's a pretty huge store full of used records. Definitely worth a visit. I've picked up some good early 90's things pretty cheaply.
The kind of record store that can make a record collection weep with joy. It's huge. Rather well organized. Stock rotates pretty regularly. Price are decent though not a steal by any stretch. There's even a big separate store just for 78's next door. Unfortunately you are very unlikely to find dance records made after the mid-80's here. A bunch of restaurants just outside.
Very carefully curated. Mainly hip-hop, house and detroit techno. Good for new records though be prepared to shell out. They have a used section too but I never found anything interesting there. There's also a cafe and boutique attached. Good place to hang out, have a cuppa and chat.
Mostly new records. Not of much interest to a dance dj. They do have a respectable world section. Just a normal, well-kept record store. Several restaurants in the neighboring blocks.
More of a rock music store. I don't remember seeing any dance 12" of interest but they did have some decent reggae 45's. There's a good bookstore upstairs.
Over in Millvale. Kind of a bad idea to build a record store on a floodplain. They lost all their stock a few years ago. I don't really know what is in this place. It's huge and poorly organized and I only spent an hour there. Worth a visit I suppose.
I'll be honest - the inventory is junk. No dance records of interest and the stock doesn't rotate at all. But maybe you will see something else. It's not big and it's right across the street from 720 Records. The store has some interesting history in Berkeley, CA. Maybe you can chat to the owner about that.
This town though tiny has a very high density of good bars, book stores and punches above its weight in records too. Good place to visit.
Asheville's biggest store. Great world section. A small dance 12" section. Visit it.
You can browse the dance section in 10 minutes and leave. Luckily there are other stores nearby.
The best store in Asheville for used records. I found some good house 12" for very cheap.
Cleveland has a fair amount of record shops but they are spread out. I didn't manage to visit all of them in one day and Hausfrau Records isn't open on Sunday, when I visited.
This is half coffee shop, half record shop. They have a pretty deep new electronic section that is well curated. There's also about two boxesof used electronic stuff. They have all other kinds of music too, a pretty good world/reggae section and some lackluster dollar bins. It's in a hip neighborhood - Tremont. Their coffee and snacks are pretty good.
Well worth a visit if only for the experience. Probably the closest you will get to Hardwax in the US. You enter a non-descript warehouse, go through a labyrinth of corridors. There are several art galleries in the building so you will see all kinds of art on the walls. The store itself is mainly a mail order operation. There are stack and stacks of brand new techno, house and other electronic music. There is no used vinyl at all. It's nice coming in in the evening as the evening light fills the huge windows. Hours are a little hard to find but I think they are open until 5pm Saturday and Sunday and at least some weekdays.
Waterloo Street shops
There are four stores on one block here. A couple of them are well known "Music Saves" and "Blue Arrow", then there's a sort of junk shop, "Star Pop" in between with a couple of boxes and another second-hand store in the basement of the Beachland Ballroom & Tavern. That basement store is probably the best of the lot with a big 45's section. The two stores that are dedicated to music only were underwhelming. Maybe it's because it's rather depressing to see a record store with lots of empty space. Anyway, none of these stores would be worth a detour on their own but since they are all so close together, give them a shot. You won't find any dance music in them but there are some soul 45's to be found.
For some reason this store wasn't showing up in Google or Yelp. But when another record store just down the road turned out to be closed I wandered in here. It paid off. I found a giant shelf of dance 12" priced at $2 each. Pulled a few gems though in rather beat up nick.
Downtown Akron made me think of Detroit in miniature. Same great scale, same utter lack of human presence.
I'm not sure if there are other record stores in town. It's a pretty sizeable city and they have a giant university. But this is the only store I visited. It's a little away from downtown in a leafy neighborhood of small shops. The store itself is small and clean. No dance music to speak of but decent world section. I guess Akron is more of an indie rock town.
This may well be the worst record store I have ever visited. The inventory is total garbage - I'm talking about a dozen stacks of dance twelves and all I had to show for it was grimy fingers. The records are beat up and prices are ridiculous - $3 per disc (an ok price for worthy records but not for what's on offer here). It's completely disorganized and there are a bunch of unpriced boxes. The biggest joke is that the store doesn't even have a listening station purportedly due to lack of space; the place is huge, just throw out a box or two of crappy records and make space.
It feels good to just let loose on a place like that. Maybe part of the problem was the general depressing nature of Erie, PA.