Record Reserve: A True Indie

The world has gone to hell, that much I am sure of. That being said, in many ways, this is only temporary. No one ever said life, or adulthood, would be easy, but still, I can’t help but wonder – how did we get here? It’s easy to get caught up in that train of thought if you allow yourself to. Instead, I choose to think ahead. I imagine what life will be like when this all blows over. I assume that all the things we have taken for granted will now suddenly have new meaning.

My routines are all completely out of whack. I haven’t had a good cup of coffee in weeks. I was accustomed to going out and about on weekends to my favorite shops and eateries, but am now suddenly couch-bound, binge-watching Netflix, while eating Pop-Tarts and marshmallow Peeps, normally reserved for Easter. Sound like first-world problems? At the end of the day, I am painfully aware of how lucky I am to have my health. All things considered, and judging by the news – life could be a whole lot worse.

When I do take the time to imagine what life will be like once all of this shit ends, and the world returns to some semblance of normalcy, I find myself thinking of what I miss most. While the list is long, the thing I find myself missing the most is visiting my favorite record stores. I’ve spent a lifetime living, working and yes – shopping, on Long Island. Suddenly finding myself in quasi isolation (I still go to work), I am beginning to feel a void. I am no social butterfly, but I supposed I never really thought about the relationships I built with my favorite stores, and their owners. On that note, I would like to take the time to tell you the story of my experience with my favorite Long Island record shop: Record Reserve.

In the Winter of 2016, 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. So after a quick Google search, I decided to visit some of the other local record stores on Long Island.

A few came up, and after reading some online reviews, I decided on a small shop, then located in Kings Park, called Record Reserve. I hoped in my car and headed over. 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 shopkeep, who 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 turntable behind the counter.

I began to dig through the bins. Given that I had only just started rebuilding my collection, I was more focused on the “basics,” which for me consisted of mostly 60s, 70s, and 80s Rock, in all its forms. I ended up with a fat stack of “essentials,” ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Quiet Riot. I said a few words to Tim; I could see he was similar to me in the way that he takes time to get to know people and perhaps is not one to necessarily dive into conversation with new people. I left the shop at ease, and as I drove away toward home, I distinctly remember saying out loud to myself, “What a great experience.” That was the first of many trips to Record Reserve.

As the years rolled on, I would always take 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 about new releases, our mutual love of KISS, more specifically the era of the band which included Ace Frehley. Tim would hold items for me I would see him post on Facebook in the “vault.” Sometimes I would spend my whole week “vaulting” items, and I would come pick up my haul waiting for me on the weekend. As my tastes broadened, and my collection grew, I distinctly recall picking up some of my first Jazz and Blues albums at Record Reserve. Tim saw me digging in the Blues bins one day, and pulled a record from his new arrivals stack on the counter, and slide it over to me. On the counter laid a copy of The Great Elmore James. I asked Tim to play it on the shop stereo, to which he of course obliged. At around thirty seconds into the first track, I had already decided to purchase the album. As I paid for my records, Tim held up the Elmore James album, looked at me wide-eyed, and simply said, “This is good shit.” I absolutely agreed.

A couple of years ago, Record Reserve moved from Kings Park to a smaller shop in Northport. Even though it was further away from our home, my ex-wife and I would still make the trip to visit Record Reserve. I purchased some of my first Classical records, as well as some of my deepest Psych and Garage Rock albums there. Tim was always quiet, unassuming, honest, and fair. Even though I never asked for one, or expected it, Tim always gave me a discount. The mutual respect from one vinyl lover to another was always apparent.

Record Reserve - Record store - Vinyl World

Fast forward to April of 2020. You all know the deal. I don’t need to inform you. Things are fucked up. As such, I’ve been checking in on friends and acquaintances. You know, just keeping the lines of communication open—both for my friends and also for myself. I guess I am not as introverted as I am made out to be, or maybe I just care about people…real people anyway. Finally, I checked in on Tim. While we have never hung out outside of Record Reserve, I still consider him a friend. More so, he’s a good and honest person, running a small business in an increasingly corporate world. A wellness check was certainly warranted.

Thankfully, I came to find that Tim was indeed healthy. Sadly, I also came to find that Record Reserve was not. The shop was closing. Sales had been down, and once the pandemic hit, there was no surviving. Apparently, the decision had been made in March, but with the ever-raging dumpster fire we find ourselves in, I had failed to notice. I went back and forth with Tim, and I thanked him for all the years of friendly chatting and let him know that his store was my favorite Long Island shop. He thanked me and let me know he would still be selling on Discogs and that I could still “vault” records that I wanted. I tried to take solace in this, but it felt hollow. I couldn’t help but feel extremely bummed. In my mind, Record Reserve was Long Island’s last truly old-school indie school shop. What I always loved most about Record Reserve was that Tim was doing it the way it was done decades ago, with a slightly updated spin (they didn’t have Facebook “vaulting” in the 70s). Suddenly, in one fell swoop, Record Reserve was gone. It had me wondering which shop would fall next? Where does this leave things in general? Not just for record shops, but for small businesses in general.

Record Reserve - Northport - Vinyl Seeker

I checked in with Tim again a few days later. I wanted to buy a Record Reserve T-shirt for old time’s sake. I guess I wanted to have something to remember the shop by. Funny how after all these years, I never purchased one. I guess I took for granted that the shop would always be there. I’ve said it before, but it can take a change of scenery or a global pandemic to garner a new perspective, and this case was no exception. Anyway, I messaged Tim to ask where I could purchase a shirt. To my surprise, he said, “Thank you! Shop is reopening.” I was confused but excited, and Tim added, “Same building, but down the alley now.” I let him know how happy I was and that the Long Island vinyl community needs Record Reserve, AKA the last true indie shop, at least in my opinion. He jokingly said, “Don’t get too excited.” I let him know I looked forward to seeing him at the new shop when this is all over, and I meant it. I truly cannot wait to visit Tim and the latest location of Record Reserve when this is all over, whenever that is.

Record Reserve is 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. Why do we love brick-and-mortar stores? I believe it’s because they encourage the sense of community that we all crave. Right now, that sense of community is sort of truncated. I am thankful for my vinyl communities and for all of you that read our website each week. In doing so, you are keeping the fires of our community stoked. That being said, I am looking forward to resuming life and actually getting out again.

One day, hopefully soon, I’ll be able to visit Record Reserve and all my other favorite shops again, with a renewed appreciation for the feeling of worn jackets slipping past my fingers, filling my nose with dust, as I peruse the “New Arrivals” bin. In this vein, I am thankful for Record Reserve and Tim. I am thankful that when this is all over, both he and his shop will still be standing. As I mentioned before, the vinyl community needs Record Reserve and all shops like it. When this is all over, they are going to need you, too—more than ever. So, don’t get too used to buying online. Don’t take small businesses in general for granted. As soon as we are able, go out and spend too much on records, just for the hell of it. As for Record Reserve, well, it’ll be business as usual. The shop gets to live, to die another day. 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?

Dig this article? Check out the full archives of Stories from the Stacks, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/stories-from-the-stacks-archives/

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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