While my own college ironically did not make the list, here’s a countdown of ten awesome record stores all over the US and the college students who get to enjoy them!
1. University of Pittsburgh/Carnegie Mellon/Chatham University - Jerry's Records
This is one record store I’ve personally been dying to visit. It’s a bit of a distance across town from these campuses, but certainly more than worth the trip. Jerry’s is located in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and is home to millions of records. Not only is this store just downright cool, but it’s owner, Jerry Weber, has gotten some serious attention. Jerry’s approach to his business is a unique one: he admits his business model is “not practical” because he buys records much faster than he tends to sell them, opting to preserve a crucial part of music history ahead of making his living. Jerry’s store might seem like a sanctuary for records, but his home is another story. He literally lives in a warehouse filled with his personal collection (and you won’t believe it until you see it). Jerry’s “obsession," however, seems to beg the question: where is the line between a passion and a disorder? Among the many documentary clips to feature Jerry and his store is the “Hoarders” episode of National Geographic’s Taboo series (below). Whether you’re a student at one of these universities or simply passing through Pittsburgh, you canNOT miss out on this place.
2. University of California, Berkeley – Amoeba Records
While Amoeba’s most famous location is by far their Los Angeles store on the Sunset Boulevard, it’s a bit of a distance from UCLA. However, you’ve got it pretty sweet too, Berkeley! Amoeba’s Berkeley location, the first of the chain’s stores to open, is practically right on campus. This extremely successful record store chain began in Berkeley in 1990. Amoeba is arguably one of the best music stores in the nation and is a must-see for serious record collectors. Their LA store is even regarded as the largest independent record store in the world. Their website even features their original “What’s in My Bag?” series, which features musicians and DJs talking about some of their favorite music, movies, and books that they’ve picked out, in house. If you ever make it to the Los Angeles store, make sure to check out their many live performances (or their online video archives).
3. University of Texas, Austin - Waterloo Records
This is another one that is a bit of a hike from campus, lying closer to the Colorado river than to campus (and I should mention that it's also slightly closer to Austin Community College, Rio Grande campus). Yet, it's certainly one of the best record stores in the country and worth a visit for any Austin music lover. They're located on North Lamar Boulevard near Duncan Park. They've won tons of Austin Music Awards and have been recognized many other places as well. Waterloo proudly declares on their site that "instead of catering to the music consumer, Waterloo catered to the music lover." They are also very dedicated to the local scene and tend to stock many Texas artists. Along with the selection, they also provide "Play Stations" for customers to sample music before they buy, and also provide store credit in exchange for gift cards from national chain stores that carry similar products (they list Target, Walmart, and Best Buy as examples), which is a pretty neat idea. Finally, they frequently feature in-store performances from both local and touring acts, many of the events being free.
4. Princeton University - Princeton Record Exchange
You've got it pretty good, Princeton. This enormous business is located not even one block from campus on South Tulane Street. Princeton Record Exchange has been recognized by many organizations such as Rolling Stone, USA Today, Billboard, and the New York Times. It has an enormous inventory of used Vinyl, CDs, and DVDs, most of which are very reasonably priced. Not a Princeton Student? Don't worry, their website offers detailed directions from many New Jersey locations as well as from Philly and NYC (some of which simply require public transportation - I'm game!).
5. Northwestern University - Vintage Vinyl
Here's a neat one. Located on Davis Street, it's fairly close to campus. Not only is Vintage Vinyl a cool place to shop, but it is known for having attracted famous musicians and actors. The store has also made many appearances in popular culture. It served as John Cusack's first choice for the record store (called "Championship Vinyl" in the film) to be used in High Fidelity (2000). The name of the store was still mentioned in the movie despite not actually being used as the filming location. Finally, the novel The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger) featured Steve Kay, the store's owner, in the story.
6. Arizona State University, Tempe - Double Nickels Collective
This one is definitely a bit of a hike from campus, but well worth it, much like our #1. Unique to this list, this is an up-and-coming store, as it only opened recently (in 2013) as a predecessor to Eastside Records (and is now affectionately known as the "Ghost of Eastside Records.") This store includes a decent selection of turntables on top of their stock of vinyl. Another unique quality of this store is that it offers spacers for other vendors or collectors to display their own albums for sale. It's located at 45 W Southern Ave and is definitely worth a stop if you can make it there.
7. Washington University in St. Louis - Vintage Vinyl
Not to be confused with the #5 choice, Vintage Vinyl is one of the most popular record stores in the Midwest. It's located about seven blocks from campus, also fairly close to the college's North campus. The founders of Vintage Vinyl prided themselves in opening a store "from the owner's perspective", a feat which began with a simple farmer's market stand in 1979. The store is known for having music of all genres in all formats. They also feature occasional live performances as part of their "In-Stores" events.
8. New York University - A-1 Records
Unlike some other stores featured on this list, A-1 sells exclusively vinyl records (something I personally love about this shop.) They are located on E 6th Street about 7 blocks from campus. This little store is stunningly decorated with records from floor to ceiling. Their website also features a Google maps 360 view of the displays. This well-kept little shop appears well-organized despite stocking records of all genres in practically every space possible. Definitely a must-see for music-loving NYU students!
9. Boston University/Massachusetts Institute of Technology - In Your Ear
Boston's self-declared "little store that could" is practically right on the BU campus, located on Commonwealth Avenue near the Agganis Arena. While a satellite branch of the business is located within Harvard University's campus, it's so-called "mothership" is a short distance from both Boston University and MIT. In Your Ear won Boston Magazine's "Best Used Music" award in 2012. It has also been visited by some pretty famous music icons, some photos of which are included on their website.
10. University of Michigan - Encore Records
Located only a couple of blocks from campus on East Liberty Street, Encore Records is an ideal spot for all your music needs. They buy and sell literally anything related to music, from CDs, vinyl, and books to things like sheet music and memorabilia. Even if you're not a student in Ann Arbor, you can still check out Encore Record's Discogs storefront, where they have hundreds of items listed.
Collector or not, these are some really interesting places to visit while you're on campus. If you're lucky enough to be at one of these campuses and need something to do on a weekend, grab a friend and take a walk around the shop. (Even better - pick up the vinyl hobby!)
Lead Image Credit: StockSnap on Pixabay