New Adventures at High Fidelity

Have you ever stopped to think about where you acquired all your records from? Time passes, and we keep collecting. Suddenly we look around, and we’re surrounded by music, but where did it all come from? What’s the story behind it all? We collect records for a myriad of different reasons, but I think most of us are looking for qualitative experiences to attach to physical art. When we play our records, the memories all come rushing back. Those memories draw from different experiences, with different people, at multiple points in our lives. For me, I often think back of where I got the record in the first place, followed up with why I bought it. Yes, it’s true that I buy a lot of vinyl online from various different sources. I am sure all of you do as well. Still, the bulk of my collection has been purchased at good, old-fashioned record shops dotted up and down the U.S. East Coast, but mostly on Long Island, NY. For over ten years, one specific shop has been my go-to when I need records, or when I just need to escape into mindless browsing and de-stress. That shop is High Fidelity.

As far as I know, High Fidelity has been in business since 2005, but I didn’t discover it, and consequently didn’t begin shopping there, until around 2009. The shop has always been located in Amityville, NY, although two years ago, in 2018, it moved from its original location to a larger, and more suitable one down the road, on Montauk Highway. All of that being said, while I have come to know, and love the new location, some of my earliest, and fondest memories as a vinyl collector came in the tiny little first location. In the Summer of 2009, I was 21 years old. I had just began working a short-lived job as “depot guy” for a friend’s seasonal waterfront restaurant called Crabby Amy’s, which is located here on Long Island. Each day, I would take Montauk Highway home to Babylon, and over time, I noticed a small shop which was nestled in a tiny shopping center. That shop was High Fidelity.

The large black sign, which read “High Fidelity Records & CD’s” in gold letters caught my eye and immediately drew me in. At the time my record collection was pretty small, and I was only just getting back into collecting records, so I figured if I was going to pass the shop each day, then I may as well pull in and check it out. Up until that point, I had only been in one, or maybe two actual record shops in my life. So, the romanticized idea of a small, dusty shop was completely lost on me. That being said – High Fidelity was definitely a small, and dusty shop, but from the moment I stepped in – I loved it. I couldn’t remember ever seeing so much vinyl in one place. Truthfully, before I stepped in it, it had never occurred to me what the shop might look like, let alone that it would be packed to the gills with records. It was an entirely new sensory experience for me. The sights, smells and sounds of record shopping were all hitting me for the first time, and I liked it.

I can still remember that shop like the back of my hand. As you walked in, to your right was an elevated counterspace, and in front was large plate glass window. On the ledge in front of that window was stacks of records, and in front of those stood the shop’s owner, Marc. Marc is an awesome guy, and he always has a genuinely nice and humble way about him. Marc is friendly, fair, and super chill. During the Summer, he can usually be found in cargo shorts and sandals, and in the winter, it’s sweats and sneakers. Marc treats everyone fairly, and on many occasion he’s told me, “We aren’t running a museum. I want the records to move to the people who want them.” Helping Marc around the shop is Jimmy. Jimmy is around my age. Maybe a bit younger. He’s unassuming, usually wears band shirts or tie dye, and can generally be seen driving his Saturn SUV adorned with band stickers on the back window. Jimmy has been there for years. In addition to working at High Fidelity all this time, he’s also a very smart guy, and he actually studied molecular engineering at Stony Brook University. Never judge a book by its cover. Anyway, beyond the counter which is covered in a collage of cool stickers lies the rest of the shop.

As you set forth into the shop, to the left was the “New Arrivals” bin, and beyond that, stocked both high and low was rows upon rows of records. Half way down the aisle was a pile of old, yellowed paper inner sleeves which Marc would happily give to you if you needed them. Buried behind those inner sleeves was a large vintage speaker which the tunes of the day could be heard from, and across the small shop sat its counterpart. As you made your way to the back of the shop, you would have to step over the boxes, and squeeze past the racks of CD’s and DVD’s, and make a right. Circle around there, and you’d see the long row ahead of you, at the end of which was the counter being tended to by Marc or Jimmy. This isle is where the magic happened at High Fidelity. I don’t know why, or how, but some of the best records in my collection were found piled here. They were always unpriced and stacked up on top of the drawers which contained cassettes and CD’s. Over time, I learned to b-line it directly to this section of the shop, so I could excavate the untold riches this sector of my own personal slice of heaven before anyone else pilfered them from me. If Marc wasn’t in the shop, Jimmy would call him, and Marc would price them for me right over the phone.

I’ve mentioned before that in 2013, I moved to Kentucky for a time. A disastrous decision that for a time left me broke, divorced, sleeping on a couch, and sadly led to me losing my entire record collection. In 2014, I awoke from my haze, and found myself delivering gyros for a Greek restaurant called Acropolis, while temporarily driving my recently deceased Grandfather’s dented and cigarette infested 2003 Chevy Malibu. Even though I had basically no money, I needed some type of pick-me-up. So, on one of my rare days off, I decided to go down to High Fidelity for the first time in what felt like centuries, and maybe restart my record collection. I arrived there, and it felt like home. For at least a second it was as if my life wasn’t crashing down around me, but as I walked in, I suddenly got very sad. I looked at all the records, some of which I used to own, and I became very aware for the first time that my record collection was gone, and it wasn’t coming back. I had no money. No apartment. I didn’t even have a room to store records in, let alone shelves. With my spirits deflated, and not wanting to look like an idiot, I walked over to the CD section, and bought a Rory Gallagher live album called Notes From San Francisco, and left. I popped the CD into the Malibu’s smoke and tar infested stereo, and went home. I figured that was it for records, and me.

I’ll fast forward here, as I’ve told the story before of how my ex-wife Angela encouraged me to start collecting again. It would be redundant for me to rehash it, but you can read these archives to find that story. Over the years, I’ve shown her a lot of music, and she’s shown me tons as well. I wouldn’t be a fan of Stanton Moore, Screaming Headless Torsos, or Corrosion of Conformity without Angela. I’ve come a long way since that sad day in the Fall of 2014, and High Fidelity has been a huge part of that. I live further away now, so I can’t get to the shop as often as I used to, but I have so many memories of stopping there and finding amazing records over the years.

I mentioned before that part of High Fidelity’s charm was that is was the quintessential cramped and dusty shop. Well, in 2018, High Fidelity finally became too cramped, and Marc decided to make a move down the block to a more spacious shop. Initially I was sort of sad as I had so many memories in that space, but after thinking on it, I couldn’t be anything less than happy for Marc. Marc is truly one of the good guys you will meet. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body; he treats his customers with respect, and he operates with integrity. I knew that High Fidelity moving to a bigger space would be awesome for business, and for Marc, and so I was happy for him. I figured it would be nice to be able to move around better in the shop, and maybe some amazing records that had been hiding away would now present themselves to me. I wasn’t wrong.

The first time I walked into the new High Fidelity, it felt like I was visiting an old friend that I hadn’t seen in a long while. It felt warm, and inviting, but different. Walking in, the counter is now to my left. On that counter were stickers still splattered in that familiar collage, and overhead, and now mounted to the wall behind was the old black sign which read “High Fidelity Records & CD’s” in gold letters. What laid ahead of me was a great expanse of relatively well-organized records. I am happy to say that the vibe and ambiance, or the ghosts of the old shop, have made the trip down Montauk Highway with Marc. Walking in, it still feels like home in a way. This is a feeling I don’t get when I walk into any other record shop. I attribute it to a few reasons. High Fidelity has been a constant. While other shops seem to close, burn down, or get turned over to owners who are jerks, for fifteen years High Fidelity has plugged along doing its thing. Marc isn’t reinventing the wheel. He keeps it simple. He treats his customers right. He has quality records priced to move, and he’s good-natured. Thus, the atmosphere in his shop is always amazing as well. You get the sense that he wants you in there, and in turn, you want to be in there, too. It’s comfortable.

High Fidelity has been a constant for me through so many phases in my life. No matter what was going on, I knew I could go down to High Fidelity, have a nice shopping experience, and just pick up some cool records while talking music with Marc. 2020 has been trying. It’s been trying for me. I am sure its been trying for you. I know it’s been a nightmare for small business owners. Before COVID-19 hit, I threw my back out to the point that I literally couldn’t stand up straight, and for the first time in my life, had to use painkillers to function, and even still – the pain was so bad, the pain killers basically did nothing. I threw my back out on Valentine’s day, and my birthday was two days later. I recall sitting at home, and saying “Fuck it,” and I hobbled to my car, in excruciating pain and somehow drove myself to High Fidelity. Remember that secret section off to the side in the old store I mentioned? Well, this store has one too. It’s right down the center of the shop, toward the back. That’s the gold mine. I dragged my broken-down ass into that shop, and I proceeded to build a mega stack of records. I was in pain, but I wasn’t going to allow it to completely ruin my birthday, and so I proceeded to drop 350 bucks. Call it stupidity. Call it commitment to the collector in me, but I dragged that whole stack to the car hunched over, and took it home. I can’t imagine what Marc must have been thinking as I hobbled around, but I can only assume over the course of fifteen years in business, he’s seen it all. Borderline-crippled regular customer rolls in alone, unshowered, unshaven, on his birthday, and drops 350 dollars on vinyl? Typical day at the office.

I mentioned earlier that as vinyl collectors we are in essence tying stories to art. We are forging qualitative experiences through collecting and curating music. I also mentioned that 2020 is bullshit. Did I mention that? If not – 2020 is bullshit. Anyway, during the three months that COVID-19 caused New York state to be essentially locked down, I watched many businesses suffer. Some even closed for good. I am happy to say that High Fidelity is not one of those businesses. I mentioned earlier that Marc is an awesome guy, but his depth of character really shined through during COVID-19. I personally gained a massive amount of respect for Marc as I watched him (via social media) hustle to survive. Each day, Marc worked tirelessly to excavate more records from his storage to post online as a means to buoy his online sales to keep High Fidelity going. Not a day went by without a new post of his “New Arrivals” for the day. I did my part and purchased from him online around once a week, and sometimes more. The packages would arrive, and in them would be a hand written message, or a punch card labeled as “Virus Bucks” as a thank you for sticking with him during the pandemic for us to use once the shop was open again. Marc didn’t have to do that, but he did. That’s the kind of guys he is. While other asked for handouts, Marc busted his ass, and hustled as hard as he could to keep High Fidelity alive. I will always truly respect him for that.

I’ll wrap this up with one more awesome, and truly special High Fidelity story. Earlier I said that most of my fondest record collecting memories were at the old store, but not all of them. In May 2020, COVID-19 began to wind down a bit here in New York. It wasn’t over yet, but there were whispers of life returning to “normal.” Not regular normal, but this temporary “new normal.” Anyway, Angela had heard via Facebook that a fellow vinyl community member in California had arranged a “private digging session” with his favorite local shop. At this point I hadn’t been record-shopping in months, and it was killing me. So, Angela suggested that we reach out to Marc, and see if he would allow us to come in for our own “private session.” Marc, being the awesome guy that he is, happily obliged, and we set up a socially distanced session. We got there, and Marc ended up allowing us to go down into the basement and dig through the unopened boxes and crates of records he had down there. It was a true goldmine, and some three hours later, we had dug through boxes upon boxes of records, but we still hadn’t made it through them all. We ended up setting up a second session the following weekend. I won’t say how much we spent; that secret lies between myself, Angela and Marc, but I will say that we came away with around 400 records and an amazing story to tell.

Qualitative experiences shared with my friends. That’s what I search for as a vinyl collector, and that’s what High Fidelity has given me. Why is my living room filled with Ikea shelves, loaded with 4,500 records? It would be easy to say it’s because I love music, but it’s much more than that. It’s not a line or a spiel. I’m not selling you an idealistic version of anything. Collecting records is expensive. If you want good sound, quality, or vintage HiFi equipment – that is expensive too. Have you ever had to move with records? It’s an absolute living nightmare. Packing, moving, and unpacking them sucks. So, why do I collect records? I collect them because beyond the basic love of music, or the supposed “sound” vinyl provides, I like the experience of it all. I love going digging with my friends. I like going digging on my own occasionally, too. I enjoy making friends with and getting to know the owners and staff of the shop.

Getting to know Marc a little bit over the years has been a treat. Shopping in High Fidelity has always been a pleasure. High Fidelity has not only been a part of my vinyl experience, but it has greatly enriched it over time in countless ways. It’s honestly been central to what I call my “vinyl happiness.” If you live on Long Island, and you haven’t been to High Fidelity over the past 15 years, then you are missing out on the best shop we have to offer here. If you’re from out of town, or out of state, and looking to take your own digging trip and make your own memories, then be sure to stop in and say hello to Marc and Jimmy. I promise you won’t regret it, and that it will be an enjoyable experience that will stay with you maybe longer than even the records you buy there will.

Dig this article? Check out the full archives of Stories from the Stacks, by Andrew Daly, here:

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.

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