Thursday, December 7, 2023

From new to old rarities, Record Bar opens in Wilmington after nearly 30 years of brand-dormancy

A Wilmington CPA has revived the Durham-based Record Bar after its nearly 30-year hiatus after being sold to Blockbuster. (Port City Daily/Mark Darrough)

WILMINGTON — It’s been nearly 30 years since music lovers have seen any stores for the previously Durham-based Record Bar, which was acquired by Blockbuster Video in the early ’90s. With more than 150 stores nationwide at its peak, the store eventually went the way of Blockbuster — until now.

Tony Stroud has lived in Wilmington for years and has made a career as a CPA, but he can now add ‘record store owner’ to his resume after reviving the previously dormant brand. Now, along with his partner Donna Hoehlein he’s brought the Record Bar back, located next to Beach Bagels off Oleander Drive.

The shop opened in December of 2019, but Stroud has been working on the project since 2018, acquiring a large inventory of albums and working to acquire the name and the brand from its dormant status.

“The name went dormant, the brand went dormant, I always wanted to open a record store, back in college in the late ’70s I said, ‘one day I’m going to try,'” Stroud said.

People might be thinking, it’s 2020, why would anyone open a record store when most people have all the music they could ever want to listen to in their pocket or purse through a phone?

For Stroud (and leagues of audiophiles) there’s something about listening to a vinyl record that mp3 and CDs can’t touch.

“In 2019, it’s the first time since ’93 that vinyl outsold CDs … But we have found true collectors, old school folks, never gave up on vinyl, they kept it the whole way … An audiophile will tell you that vinyl is what the artist intended,” he said. “That sort of ‘snap, crackle, pop’ that little sweet high and crispy low is what most audiophiles will tell you vinyl gives them.”

Records might be considered ‘low tech’ when it comes to the music industry, but that doesn’t mean the systems haven’t caught up with the times. The turntables Stroud offers customers are not the gramophones of yesteryear, instead, they are able to connect to home speaker systems via Bluetooth.

For those wanting to perhaps ‘cash in’ on their old record collections or maybe just trade them in for something new, Record Bar does it all — buying and selling new and used albums.

From bootleg Beatles to Pearl Jam

Tony Stroud opened Record Bar in December of 2019. (Port City Daily/Mark Darrough)

The Record Bar hopes to have a little bit of something for everyone when it comes to musical tastes.

There are the classics and ‘greatest hits’ albums for popular bands, new releases from bands like Pearl Jam on heavier 180-gram vinyl — and then — there are the rarities.

“We’re doing new and used, the biggest difference between a new and a used album is the weight of the album. The new album weighs 180 grams. The old album weighed between 100 – 120 grams … The thing there is supposed to be durability, not as much of a problem with warping,” Stroud said.

Record Bar also buys vinyl from customers who have something to sell, and that’s where Stroud has found some interesting albums. Some of the more unique records in the shop include albums from The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Beatles.

For example, Stroud pointed out “Street Survivors,” the fifth album from Lynyrd Skynyrd — and the last full album released by the original members of the band before the notorious plane crash that claimed the lives of several band members. Its original album artwork showed the band set against a burning city, but after the crash, the artwork for the album was pulled and replaced with a simple black background.

“So this came out, a couple of the guys die in a fiery plane crash, they pull the cover, they go back and come back with something in black which seems to be in memorial,” Stroud said, comparing the two albums side-by-side.

One of Stroud’s more unique records are somewhat of anomalies to him — Russian bootlegs of The Beatles ‘White Album’ and ‘Help,’ the album covers, track listing, and more are all in Russian.

“These were bought at a flea market in Moscow,” he said, ” And we have no idea what the price is.”

The Record Bar is located at 5906 Oleander Drive Unit B directly next to Beach Bagels and is open Wednesday — Sunday (for the time being), and the store can be found on Facebook.

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