An Interview with Tim Clair of Record Reserve

0 0
Read Time:15 Minute, 25 Second
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Logo-Preview-2-1.png

In the Winter of 2015, I was encouraged by my then-wife, Angela, to begin the process of rebuilding my record collection. I’ve told you all the story of how I lost my first collection, so I won’t go into that now. Anyway, as Winter turned to Spring, I was about to begin a new job, and I had taken a week off in between employs to clear my head. Sleeping in, eating egg sandwiches and generally doing nothing sounds fun, but gets boring after a few days, and so after a quick Google search, I decided to visit some of the other local record stores on Long Island, New York. A few came up, and after reading some online reviews, I decided on a small shop, then located in Kings Park, called Record Reserve. As I stepped into Record Reserve for the first time, I felt an immediate sense of comfort. I sometimes feel the tension ratchet up inside of myself when I enter new places, but on this day, there was none of that for me. The atmosphere was quiet. The bins were packed with vinyl, and the walls were lined with cool posters. I looked over to the counter, and there was a single shop keep, whom I came to know as the owner – Tim Clair. He too seemed quiet and reserved, while he carefully cleaned and inspected records to be played on the vintage Realistic turn table behind the counter.

As the years rolled on, I would always make the time to visit Record Reserve as often as I could. Over time, I developed a rapport with Tim, and each time I would visit, we would talk new releases, industry bullshit, our mutual love of KISS and generally how we both were doing. Record Reserve it not flashy, and Tim is not much for advertising. The shop is clean, yet cluttered in all the right ways. It’s the kind of shop you need to go into and dig, but there are road markers left along the way. Make sense? It’s the kind of place where you buy records right off the shop turntable, as you hear them. I know because I personally have on countless occasions.

So, why do we love brick and mortar stores? I believe it’s because they encourage the sense of community that we all crave. You see, Record Reserve is old school. It’s a shop for real deal vinyl collectors, done right by a real deal, dyed in the wool vinyl collector. Cash in the form of crumpled dollar bills preferred. No posers allowed. Does it get any better? So, I’ve said my piece. All that’s left for you to do is visit the shop, which is located at 698 Fort Salonga Rd (25A) Northport NY 11768, USA. You can contact Tim at 631-721-6250 or via email at vinyl@recordreserve.com. If you’re into the old school, indie vibe then you will dig this place for sure. Also, you can dig into Tim’s Instagram here, and the shop’s website here. Dig in.

Andrew:
Tim, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Tell us about your backstory. Where did you grow up? What got you into records? You’ve been a few bands over the years. Tell us about those.

Tim:
Thanks for having me! I started life as a newborn mutant in 1964 to a Grumman Aerospace family living in Bethpage, NY. Soon after, we moved to Farmingdale where I attended elementary school, but then relocated again to South Huntington for the remainder of my education. After graduation, I packed up my guitar and made a beeline to upstate NY where I met some musicians that eventually became the short-lived Thrash band SMUT before moving back to LI. Fast forward to 2000, I got the bug to jam again and started The Intoxica Surf-Metal band, simultaneously drumming for another band, Distraction. We recorded and played a ton of Punk shows on LI and NYC. That was a lot of fun. The last group I was in was called The Crystal Palace Exhibition, originally formed in 1968. We were somewhat of a Mountain tribute. Our drummer was 100 years old and had actually opened for The Vagrants under that name, so I thought it would be cool to revive it. However, we couldn’t ever find a bassist that could remember how to play our 45-minute version of ‘Nantucket Sleighride,’ so I packed it in, LOL.

I didn’t “get into” records. That was the main format that people listened to their music on back then. It is likely that I am a bit more attached to records than others, for my brother and I liked listening to the old 10” 78rpm shellac discs when we were kids. We found them out in nana’s stereo console, and in old barn bathrooms. They were a window into a hidden dimension that was eclipsed by modern Rock and technology, etc. I never sold off my record collection. Well, maybe some of it to start the record shop!

Andrew:
You’ve been running Record Reserve for awhile now, right? I’ve been shopping in your store for a good 5 or 6 years now. How did the shop get started?

Tim:
Our 10 year anniversary is coming up in November. Thanks for your patronage!

After an unfortunate family-related inheritance, I opened the first shop in East Northport. It was originally to be named Record Hoard, but I was wisely advised against it (insert crude joke here). Nothing has really changed since then, except the record prices! Since that initial location, I have moved six additional times. Although it seems ridiculous, there was always some good reason for moving from place to place. The latest was obviously the pandemic.

Andrew:
What was the landscape like for records when you opened? How has it evolved and where does it stand today? Better or worse?

Tim:
Things only get better as you persevere. I can’t hide from the collectors. They will always find out where you’re at, then they tell other people! I haven’t been around as long as some other shops, but during my short time I’ve seen trends change. It seems like collecting records is becoming more of a family-oriented activity.  Parents visit the shop together with their children and pass on traditions. Rock n’ Roll is no longer dangerous, and is a part of our culture. We are now also deep in the era of the reissue, which means customers are buying online or at larger retail chains, and due to Record Reserve not carrying much new-artist vinyl, I’ve changed my response to requests for contemporary artists to “We only carry up to 1987!” There are also the people who have collected everything they could ever want or listen to, and they have scaled back in their buying habits, rightfully so. No one needs ten copies of Exile or Dark Side. Stick with the best sounding copy with all the inserts!

Andrew:
You’ve always got a cool array of records across all genres in your shop. How do you keep the shop so well stocked?

Tim:
Thanks, perhaps it only appears that way! I try to showcase weird titles on social media. I’m not trying to impress anyone with “cool” records. I never turn away records because of a certain genre. There’s always something that ties the old oddball stuff to something more recognizable. Another thing that helps is that I tend to hoard stuff for myself, then bring it back years later as a new arrival!

Andrew:
What I like about your shop is the rapport you have with your customers. At the end of the day, it feels like you’re one of us. What would you say your style is when it comes to running your shop compared to others out there?

Tim:
I guess I do have a style. My style is that I could care less about cash registers, road signs, trash can liners, audiophile equipment, or creating some capitalist mystique to build a wall between customers and myself. I can’t speak for other shops, but I’m probably the least professional, yet most reliable. I try to answer to everyone’s ongoing wants, remembering what and keeping an eye out for records deemed worthless by most collectors. As everyone knows, I have The Vault…but don’t let your records sit too long in there or I won’t be able to close the door to it! I really did name it after Beverley Hills Pawn. I am the Yossi of records.

Andrew:
Shifting gears now, is there anything within the industry that you would like to see change for the better? What improvements would you like to see that you feel would be beneficial to us all within the vinyl community?

Tim:
You know very well how I like to complain about the lack of regulation regarding the distribution stage, where companies are selling product at wholesale (or below) online to the public, leaving physical shops looking like price gougers. Fortunately, I’m not really a player in that game, so I rely on used record sales to survive. Customers who understand this tend to be loyal and buy locally on principle, which is good for everyone.

Andrew:
You’ve had to move the shop a few times for a few reasons. Has it been tough having to keep moving around? Also, the shop almost met its end during the onset of COVID-19, but thankfully it survived. How did you make that happen?

Tim:
Ha, I have moving the shop down to a science!

After working at a local supermarket’s produce department for five months during the pandemic, I felt it was time to return to records. I had kept it alive meeting customers on a hiking trail, but it wasn’t the same. The lockdown was finally lifted, so I started up again part time, and the response was so overwhelming that I returned to regular hours rather quickly. I was lucky to have known about the current space, which was up for grabs at the time. Having known the landlord for decades really helped. It’s a tiny space that fits my needs, and is shutdown-proof. I may add that I feel I am not, for any earthly reason, permitted to ever close up for good. My customers make sure of that!

Andrew:
A lot of owners have mixed feelings on RSD. Some love it. Some hate it. What are your honest feelings on RSD?

Tim:
See my response about dealing in new product. I can’t afford to gamble on what will or won’t sell. Nothing against them. Some shops have never participated in RSD. It was great in the beginning, but I feel people by now have all the used records they need, which was the intent of RSD – get people in your shop to buy new and used – a shot in the arm for the VC retailers. Now it seems the customer base just wants to wait in the rain overnight for the latest hand-poured 300 gram common reissue for no reason but to be the only one who has it.

Andrew:
We know you love music, and this may seem like an obvious question, but do you collect records? Tapes? CDs? If so, what do records mean to you? More so, what does music mean to in general? How many records are in your own personal collection?

Tim:
Do I collect records? Nah, they sound terrible! Surface noise! Yes, I recently did a rough estimate of my collection which is around 3,500. I’m trying to thin it out, but there’s always more to acquire. At least I have a place to get rid of them. I don’t have a lot of tapes except for music I’ve written and recorded on 4 track cassette. I do have boxes of CDs which are good for listening to in my 20-year-old truck. I also try to pick up weird 8-tracks of artists I like. For me, records have gone from something to listen to and enjoy to a fun quest for identification. What pressing plant, mastering engineer, etc. I was recently overjoyed to find a FOON pressing from Belgium. I think some people might understand!

Andrew:
What are some albums you don’t have, but hope to find one day? Are there any albums you’ve given up that you wish you hadn’t? Are you like some of us who purge records only to rebuy them again?

Tim:
I am waiting for a copy of this weird Heavy Rock album Weight – One Man’s Queen Is Another Man’s Sweat Hog (AVCO) to come through the door. I had that record back in 7th grade and lost it along the way like a numskull! I have a want list on Discogs but I don’t care about it much anymore. Too many records. It’s become a job. I had a rare Blue Tear album but I gave it to a hardcore KISS fan, but no, I don’t regret it. I’m in the fortunate position to have an array of LPs to choose from. It’s kind of why I opened the store in the first place. Don’t tell anyone.

Andrew:
What are some are/were some of your favorite local shops to buy in around NYC and Long Island? Do you like to travel and buy vinyl as well?

Tim:
I started early with Sam Goody, then wised up with Titus Oaks in Melville and then Cheapos, of course. When I lived upstate there was a weird store called Metro Electronic which had a ton of metal imports. When I moved back to LI in the early 90’s, I started taking the train to Manhattan – Revolver, Subterranean, Second Coming, Generation and Footlight – to find bootleg Beatles and Beach Boys CDs. I travel to New England quite a bit. You can find decent records in thrift/antique shops up there. It’s not picked over like in the tri-state area. I don’t get out much lately, but I do like Record Stop and High Fidelity. There are other hidden LI record spots I tell people about (if they’re cool). Don’t forget about the great records fairs like Vinyl Revolution (Slipped Disc) and WFMU!

Andrew:
2020 was a weird year, but we still saw a lot of great music released. What are some of your “must have” albums of 2020?

Tim:
I think X – Alphabetland and Bob Mould – Blue Hearts are the only ones I’ve picked up. Oh, and Courtney Marie Andrews – Old Flowers is great too (Fat Possum are the real deal). 2019 was better for me – Jenny Lewis – On The Line and Kim Gordon – No Home Record are some of my all-time favs now.

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most you and why?

Tim:
I like The Beatles – Revolver for its sheer innovation, lots of which is Geoff Emerick’s doing. It’s the first “modern” sounding record ever, and the songs aren’t half bad either. I’ve also come to love The Mothers – We’re Only In It For The Money. A brilliant attack on the “Rock scene” plus the regular fare of corporate oppression/social status satire Avant Jazz Rock. Lately, I’m obsessed with The Byrds, Enya, Doug Sahm and Fairport Convention (plus any other odd UK Folk Rock for that matter.) You can’t beat Gram Parsons’ burnt casket story.

Andrew:
I can’t imagine Long Island without Record Reserve. You’re one of the last true indie shops. You’re a survivor. You’re still young, but can’t do it forever, right? What does the future hold for Record Reserve?

Tim:
Don’t be fooled – I am an old Dobby-like creature. I’ve worn the same hat for ten years to stay free from Bezos and the like. I don’t think I’m the last indie. There’s always someone that has the opportunity to do what I do, but it doesn’t mean that it will work. I’ve seen shops heralded in Newsday and The NY Times close up just months after their article was published. I have wheeler-dealer DNA. I literally come from a family of junk peddlers and auctioneers. I will probably die like the Collyer Brothers – buried by a collapsed tower of overstuffed record boxes. With my disabilities, it’s the only thing I know how to do, and that’s okay. I’m open for business. Could be in Vermont one day when nobody’s watching. I’ll let everyone know when.

Andrew:
I’ve often heard that you have to be at least a little bit crazy, and have a whole lot of drive and passion to open a record store, let alone succeed. Would you agree?

Tim:
I have agreed to go insane. Right or wrong, I always try my best. You only go around the sun so many times. The secret is to be fair to others, and to clean your records the best you can. Stay healthy. Avoid fast and processed foods. Take lots of supplements. Build your own record racks with an old circular saw from 1959. Don’t use scissors to cut up the jacket. Wear a werewolf mask. Don’t suck on or lick the record. You’ll ingest phthalates (plastic softeners). That’s not good. Your immune system will get horked.

Andrew:
Last question. Is there anything else you want all of us here as well as the general record consuming public to know?

Tim:
We’re facing an existential crisis. Go vegan to fight climate change and end pandemics. Vote Green or Independent Party. Don’t ever be afraid to stand up for what’s right, even if costs you friends. Thanks!

Wanna check out Tim’s Thrash Metal band, Smut? Click the link below!

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %

Average Rating

5 Star
0%
4 Star
0%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%

Leave a Reply

Social profiles
%d bloggers like this: