L.A.’s loss is Boston’s gain: In May, Brookline native Chris Guttmacher left the West Coast, where he lived since 1994, to return to Boston to be closer to family. And some 20,000 records came with him. This wasn’t a just personal indulgence, but a professional one, too: The one-time drummer for celebrated area bands Bullet LaVolta and Cul De Sacmoved his Los Angeles-based record store, Blue Bag Records, to North Cambridge, which opened mid-July.
Despite the unexpected meteoric comeback of vinyl, as in records, record stores haven’t seen as healthy a resurgence. Though Newbury Comics keeps on trucking, Other Music, a New York City staple, is the latest high profile closing.
“Record stores close, record stores open. I think it’s a good time to open,” counters Guttmacher. “The market is there; the demand is there. I deliberately chose this location, because it’s central to different communities in Cambridge and Somerville. It’s also sleepy enough to avoid the pitfalls of having heavy foot traffic that isn’t our foot traffic,” he adds, noting the plentiful street parking. “We want to be a destination spot.”
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Located on Massachusetts Avenue, just north of Porter Square and a five-minute walk from Davis Square, opening weekend saw a healthy daylong flow of crate diggers leafing through everything from vintage prog rock to obscure electronic music. This isn’t the place for Rihanna, Taylor and Justin fans; it’s more Lee Scratch Perry than Katy Perry.
“Some customers are die-hard vinyl collectors who never gave up on it,” Guttmacher observes of the shop’s early days. “Some are younger and are getting started on collecting. Some are in between and gave up for a while, but want to restart a collection.”
Buying vinyl isn’t just about better sound quality, says Guttmacher: “It’s a cool vintage thing, like old cars or old furniture. Albums are also like time capsules, they transport you back to a time in your life, or another time.”
Guttmacher’s actively buying record collections, in all genres, to add to his stock and will probably add CDs at some point. While he still has to get the new website up, he’s just “unpacked” his prized singles collection.
“I have about a 1,000 singles. Reggae is a passion of mine. I have vintage reggae from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s,” he says proudly. “I bet we will have the best selection of vintage reggae in Boston.”
Blue Bag Records, 2325 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, bluebagrecords.com.