Volume 78 / Number 15, September 10 - 16, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since
1933

Villager photo by Caroline Debevec

Looking for vinyl at Bleecker Bob’s Records.

Vinyl still plays big in South Village record shops

By Gabriel Zucker

It’s not a big deal to see a “No Tapes” sign in the increasingly digital music industry these days. It’s not even surprising to find a “No CD’s” sign, what with the advent of electronic downloading that has already put Tower Records out of business.

But Bob Abramson does not run a downloading business. He posts those signs in the window of his House of Oldies so that passersby know that they will only find vinyl in his shop.

“We stay in business because there’s a lot of people who feel vinyl sounds better than anything else when they listen to it,” Abramson explained in his claustrophobic Carmine St. shop recently. “It’s as simple as that. There’s enough people that love the sound of vinyl to keep us in business.”

And Abramson is not alone. Within a two-block radius of his store, vinyl diehards can find not one but two more vinyl-vending record shops: Bleecker Bob’s Records, on W. Third St. between Sixth Ave. and MacDougal St., and Bleecker Street Records, on Bleecker St. between Carmine and Leroy Sts., whose CD-stocked ground floor masks a vinyl-filled basement that employees say is a large part of their business. Until recently, two more shops lived on Abramson’s street; they are gone, but Abramson has faith that he and the others will remain. Asked if escalating rent was giving him the spooks, he laughed.

“We have no competition,” he said. “My customers are very loyal to me. We opened in ’68 and we still have customers from the ’60s.”

But the vinyl culture is not limited to the generation that never made the shift.

“We have all kinds, all ages coming in here,” said Neil Constantine, who works in the vinyl basement at Bleecker Street Records. “We have young kids and their parents coming with them, trying to find their record, and we have the old-timer that’s trying to find something back from their heyday just to get reacquainted with it.”

“My clients are from teenagers to old people like myself,” agreed Abramson, who has owned and worked at House of Oldies since 1968.

His customers have also included some dignitaries.

“Almost every artist has been in here,” boasted Abramson, listing John Lennon, Bette Middler, George Carlin, Robert Plant and all of The Ramones.

Abramson has also hosted some less-than-desirables.

“Every day, I get parents coming in with their children, saying, ‘Joey, this is what we used to play,’ ” said Abramson, who said he is fine with that, “as long as I don’t get 14 people in here who don’t know what records are and my regulars can’t get in.”

“You see it’s a narrow store,” he said.

Narrow, and filled with vinyl, House of Oldies is, in fact, one of the largest vinyl shops in the country, with about 500,000 45s and 250,000 LP’s between the store, the basement and a Long Island warehouse.

And among those 750,000, what are Abramson’s favorites?

“It’s funny, because everybody asks me that question,” he laughed. “They think because I own the store that I know the little things that nobody knows. But I’m into Dylan, the Stones, Beach Boys, Bowie, Springsteen — the regular, the very, very vanilla, so to speak.”

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