Fans gather for the love of vinyl

By Jennifer Myers and Rita Savard

Spoti-what? Even in the age of the digital download, an uptick in record sales from a new generation of music listeners proves there’s some serious magic in old school vinyl. We’ve rounded up a list of our favorite crate-digging havens where you can revisit classics, catch up on new releases and scour music memorabilia in the flesh.

54 Middlesex St., Lowell | 978-459-0766
Quirky, a little cluttered and totally funky, entering Garnick’s is like stumbling upon the coolest attic ever. Packed to the rafters with vintage turntables, jukeboxes and stacks upon stacks of wax from the Beatles to John Coltrane, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin — you name it — if it’s on vinyl, Garnick’s has it. If they don’t, they’ll make it their mission to find it. Opened by Sam Garnick in 1934, the torch was passed along to his sons Robert, Dave and Paul who have run the store for the last 50 years and keep it big on character. Picture The Odd Couple with a third roommate, or something like that. Robert Garnick’s jam is 1950s doo-wop. Groups like The Cadillacs and The Penguins. But he is pretty passionate about all music, from heavy metal to the blues.
“I don’t know too much about anything in life even though I’ve been married 42 years, but I know music,” Bob says. “We have hundreds of thousands of records…and that is being conservative.”
When the record business hit a bump in the 1980s as the industry turned to cassettes and CDs, the Garnick brothers, who also repair televisions and restore jukeboxes, held onto a loyal customer base by being the most friendly and knowledgeable guys around. One of their beautifully restored jukeboxes was featured in The Boston Museum of Fine Arts 2013 Hippie Chic exhibit.
“Today the record business is booming,” Bob says. “Kids are finding phonographs in their parents’ attics and really getting into records. It is the young people in their teens, 20s and 30s who are buying records now.”

219 Central St., Lowell | 978-454-8002
A fixture in downtown Lowell since 1984, Ron Lessard ‘s record shop is packed from floor to ceiling with new and used albums spanning genres and decades. Since dropping the needle on his first record at age 8, Jan and Dean Meet Batman — yes, he still owns it — Lessard was hooked by the magic of vinyl. Even during the years vinyl seemed to be forgotten, his shop soldiered on thanks to online record collectors seeking out Lessard’s extensive wares. In case you’re wondering what the “RR” in RRRecords stands for, Lessard says it all depends on whom he’s talking to at the moment. Ronald Reagan Records, Red Rooster Records, Really Ridiculous Records, Ron’s Radical Records… “Use your imagination and you can go on and on,” he says.

Vinyl Destination
250 Jackson St., Mill No. 5, Lowell | 978-866-6825
The very essence of a local neighborhood record store, Vinyl Destination is a small shop with big inventory, good vibes, and constant turnover thanks to vinyl-addicted owner David Perry. Along with his son and business partner, Dan Perry, David is committed to stocking expertly chosen titles across every genre, except for Justin Bieber, because “it’s just not a necessity,” Perry says. The staff will help you explore and discover a lot of interesting, diverse and underground music, as well as some rare finds for the serious collector. As the new kids on the block (the shop just opened in November 2013), Vinyl Destination continues to up its game with a special emphasis on local labels and in-store performances.

Welfare Records
58 River St., Haverhill | 978-374-0777
Thousands of titles fill every nook and cranny of this adventurous-listener’s wonderland. There’s a room set up with several vintage turntables just for listening and one of our favorite sections to dig through, “Odd Stuff,” is filled with interesting finds under genres like Sexy Records, Horror, Sci-Fi and Sound Effects. This is a shop you could get lost in for hours.

The Music Connection
1711 S. Willow St., Manchester, N.H. | 603-644-0199
A classic overstuffed mom-and-pop used vinyl haven, where you’ll find row after row of well-organized LPs, rare finds and out-of-print treasures in excellent condition. The store is almost 30 years old and its scrappy, vinyl-loving proprietor, Richard Gesner, is 80-plus years young with no plans to retire anytime soon. His rock, country, blues and jazz offerings are nothing to scoff at, and talking to Gesner in person — who is a walking fountain of music history — makes this record shop a necessary pilgrimage for all audiophiles.

Skeletone Records
50L North Main St., Rochester, N.H. | 603-948-1009
Loud guitars. Primal screams. Sid Vicious. Some music scares parents and this indie gem boasts the largest collection of punk, hard-core and metal on the east coast, including garage-rock comps, under-the-radar punk, ska and other rarities. Besides vinyl you can score posters, T-shirts, clothes and sky-high platform shoes for dancing to all that sweet new vinyl.

Spun Records
274 Central Ave., Dover, N.H. | 603-742-6939
A welcoming spot that caters to music nerds of every budget from penny pinchers (you can find plenty of used vinyl for under $5) to big spenders in search of rare imports and obscurities. Last year, owner Mark Matarozzo moved to a larger shop with 1,400-square feet of space, leaving us with more room to browse. Prepare to dwindle away the better part of the afternoon.

Newbury Comics
310 Daniel Webster Hwy., Nashua, N.H. | 603-888-0720
This New England powerhouse that got it’s start as a small comic shop on Boston’s Newbury Street in 1978 has added numerous locations over the years, and has managed to survive the many changes in the music industry by selling slices of pop culture alongside the tunes — Walking Dead trading cards and Yoda dolls anyone? But at its core, founder and CEO Mike Dreese has kept the focus on keeping the stores fun places for music lovers to get their hands on new and used records, including rare imports, at some great deals like the “buy two, get 1 free” promotions. We’d like to add that the Nashua store staff should get an award for being the most friendly and down-to-earth sales people on the planet. But don’t take our word for it, stop in and check it out for yourself .

Bull Moose
356 S. Broadway St., Salem, N.H. | 603-898-6254
Opened by a vinyl-addicted college kid in 1989 in Brunswick, Maine, Bull Moose has grown to 11 stores scattered around New England. While you may come looking for something to add to your vinyl collection, Bull Moose also carries books, T-shirts and novelty items, so you could end up leaving with a rubber chicken and plastic finger tentacles along with that new David Bowie album.

Pure Pop Records
115 S. Winooski Ave., Burlington, V.T. | 802-658-2652
A thriving basement oasis for audiophiles, you’ll find a big fat collection of indie rock and loads of new vinyl at decent prices. There’s also a free music bin and a sharply picked collection of hard-to-find and out-of-print records. As you flip through the stacks, be sure to give your picks a spin in the store’s listening booths — the perfect cure for whatever ails you.




About The Author

Rita Savard
Founder & Executive Editor

Founder and Executive Editor Rita Savard grew up in Lowell and is a forever-proud Acre girl. An Emerson College alum, she was also an award-winning journalist at The Sun newspaper before exiting to start Howl in 2012 — the answer to managing her addiction for local pop culture. She falls in love with music, movies, books, stray dogs and telling people’s stories.