Path to Record Store Day: Part 2

Written by Jack Stephens

In my last article, we discussed how Record Store Day originated as well as the differing thoughts and concerns surrounding it. The main Record Store Day is held in April; however, a couple of spinoffs of the event are now held at many independent record stores throughout the nation as well as in several countries throughout the world. These are Black Friday Record Store Day held on the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States and Small Business Saturday on the following day. Some record stores participate in each of the days while others observe only the main and original Record Store Day. There are record stores that do not celebrate the event at all. Many collectors, as well as stores, simply feel every day is Record Store Day while some people prefer to get their vinyl from other sources such as thrift stores, flea markets, online sites or wherever they can find them.

In the city I live in, we have around four local independent record stores. Most do celebrate the main Record Store Day. However, my favorite record store in Asheville, North Carolina celebrates all 3 days. Matt Schnable and Mark Capon opened Harvest Records in August 2004. Since that time the store has increased its offerings as well as the size of the store. The store includes thousands of titles on vinyl, as well as on CD. They also sell cassette tapes and turntables along with accessories. In fact, the store even has a stage for store performances mainly by local bands of which Asheville is home to many. They were involved in booking and promoting many shows around the Western part of North Carolina; however, since their main focus is on the store itself, they have not been engaged in this for the last few years. For the cratediggers, there is a special area of the store called "The Basement" where collectors can search through thousands of vinyl albums, 45s, and CDs at a mere 25 cents per item. This is located underneath the main store and must be entered from the outside through double doors. However, be aware there are only four times during the year when buyers can enter this area. Those days are Record Store Day, Black Friday Record Store Day and Small Business Saturday. The other day “The Basement” is accessible happens on the Anniversary of the opening of the store each August. Harvest Records appeals to music collectors of every type and truly lives up to the idea that Record Store Day is every day.

Although I am a lifelong collector of music, I actually just experienced my first experience with Record Store Day and Harvest Records this past April. Before then, I found my vinyl at online sites as well as places such as thrift stores, garage sales, friends and the like. Growing up, I bought my vinyl records at record stores and accumulated quite a few from hand me downs from family members. I had heard of Record Store Day, but for whatever reason, I did not participate and very rarely visited record stores after their heyday. This year I decided to see what the day was about as well as what the record stores in the area were like now.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect on my first Record Store Day in April. I decided to first go to Harvest Records since it appeared to be the largest and most popular of the record stores in the area. I did expect a line at whichever store I went to due to all of the new releases aimed at collectors. Therefore, I got there early to get in the store and hopefully pick some of these up. I was actually suffering from a bit of nervous anxiety since it truly had been a long time since I had even entered a record store in my hometown. I had briefly been in some when visiting cities such asNew York and Los Angeles, but I only browsed briefly. I really didn't want to end up finding a bunch of vinyl that I would then have to figure out how to get home on an airplane. So, even though I had always been a regular inhabitant in the record stores of the past in Asheville, this was somewhat a new experience.

First of all, I had to find Harvest Records which I did and then I had to discover a parking place. As most cities are, that’s not always easy to do, but I found one a few blocks away. A line had already formed at least an hour before the store opening, but I wasn’t too far from the front. I discovered this as more and more people joined the line and soon it was snaking around the building. I had some conversations with other people standing near me. The most common things being discussed among collectors were what special releases they were hoping to score, what their plans for the day were, where they were from and the like. One customer standing beside me told me that he planned to hit this store first and then continue on to another record store downtown to find other exclusives. He was especially interested in the special release of the JohnnyCash "At Folsom Prison" which was a five-LP set celebrating the 50thAnniversary of this iconic album. He had traveled 60 miles just to find this release and thought this store would be the most likely to have it. All age groups were represented among this large group. The store opened and they only let a certain amount of people in at a time. Of course, those of us who did not get to enter with the first group were somewhat dismayed since all were afraid of what they were looking for would be gone. Luckily, I was in the next group and made my way to the group that preceded mine. They were all going through the Record Store Day special releases of which there were quite a few. As noted in my previous article, the majority were repackaged material from the past. I really did not see any actual new material. Most were either releases that contained previously unrecorded material combined with the original material which made single albums double albums and double albums triple albums, old material now pressed on colored vinyl as well as picture disks with all displaying on the unopened packaging all the goodies the buyer would find inside. There were a few 7-inch, 45 rpm records in the special bins. Some of these unique singles were also included within the packaging of the albums. Again, some of these 45s were also pressed on colored vinyl or other special designs.

The other people there buying up these releases were quite friendly and I really did not notice anyone trying to buy up everything there for resale as has been a complaint of Record Store Day that we spoke up in the first part of this series. No customers were trying to push anyone out of the way and would quite gladly trade places with others as they went through the bins. The prices were certainly not cheap as is the case of vinyl in general nowadays. Even though, I had never really been a huge fan of reissues these did indeed strike my interest. Soon my arm was aching from holding the large number of albums I had found which included a couple that were in big demand such as the Johnny Cash collection and the David Bowie Live collection. I found some counter space which was guarded by an employee of the store who watched after my findings as I sought more. I asked him if he would watch after these while I looked for more and he enthusiastically told me that they were safe. Once I got the pile of everything together, I had found, I realized that I was about to spend a fortune on these. So, reminiscent of my childhood and young adult days, it was time to sort to get the amount down to an affordable price. Unfortunately, I decided I didn’t really need some that I later regretted not getting such as the Johnny Cash and David Bowie. The collector who I had talked with before the store opening actually brought me the Johnny Cash release as it was the last one after he got his copy. Even after my sorting, the releases I decided on still ending up costing me quite a bit, but I was okay with the price. The grab bag they put my purchases in contained some special items that the store had included.

Then, it was time to make my way to “The Basement” to see what might be down there. To get to the basement, you have to leave the store, go down some stairs and enter another double door. What I saw was overwhelming since there were albums, 45s, CDs and other assorted music formats in mass quantity and all were only 25 cents apiece. Well, obviously I had not allocated enough time in the day to go through all of these gems. I went through a few 45s, picked out just a few to buy and decided I had to get back to my scheduled other activities for the day. Since this was my first Record Store Day, I did not realize this was to be an all day and way up into the evening event. DJs would be spinning records, free beer as well as prizes would be given out, and several local bands would be performing. I missed all of that due to my thinking that this would just span maybe a few hours. I carted my acquisitions back to my car and had to call it a day. I planned then that I would be attending these Record Store Days in the future and felt quite satisfied with the event even though I missed a lot of the activities.


After the event, I read a lot about it and actually first discovered how many negatives had been written about Record Store Day. Although, I had not really experienced these issues other than most of the special releases being repackaged material it did make me think. First of all, I already knew from all my years of record collecting that when you open an album, the value decreases. Although, my interest in collecting is truly about the music and not the value, for whatever reason I have still not opened any of the items I bought that day. Truly, at this time, I am just glad to have them. One day maybe I will take the plunge and actually dig into these. One of the criticisms of Record Store Day is that collectors never open what they purchase so as it stands, I am guilty of that. The one thing I knew for sure is that I would become a patron of Harvest Records and I would continue going to these events. Strangely enough, the one thing I wanted to do more than anything else was to spend the day in that basement going through the thousands of items there. Unfortunately, I was out of town for their anniversary so I didn’t go to that. Due to the fact that the record store is across town and in an area I rarely go in, I have not become much of a regular patron yet.

However, I found out about Black Friday Record Store Day and Small Business Saturday and planned to participate in both days. This was despite already knowing that I was going to have an unusually large influx of family for the Thanksgiving Holiday. The majority of hardcore music collectors will never let something like company stop them from at least making an appearance at a special event such as this. However, in the case of those collectors who do not like these special Record Store Days, they would do anything to avoid being anywhere near a record store then. Personally, I wanted to go for the special exclusive releases and another search of “The Basement”. I also wanted to investigate and see if I saw or experienced any of the criticisms I had been reading and writing about concerning these days. Black Friday came and although I did not get to the record store as early as I had planned on, I eventually made it. I had originally wanted to compare the opening lines I saw on my first Record Store Day to the Black Friday one. That didn’t happen this time around; however, I did talk to other customers who were there earlier and apparently the lines were just as long. I spoke to two different people who said they got there just a little late and ended up spending more than an hour in line. This was evident as the bins holding the exclusive releases were packed with people. However, just as I had seen back on Record Store Day in April, I saw no pushing, shoving or any of the behaviors I had read about as being a complaint of these days. However, I didn’t have a lot of time to go through the special releases this day so I made my plans to come back the next day.

Although, this was rather frustrating, I was glad to know that Small Business Saturday was combined with Black Friday at the store so I still had another chance at the exclusives. I’m not really sure how many record stores make this a two-day event, but I was certainly glad that Harvest Records did. I emailed the store and called them aswell to see if there were any of the special releases left and fortunately, they still had quite a few.


Small Business Saturday actually turned out in many ways to be my favorite of the Record Store Days. I arrived early, there were no lines and the environment was relaxed. There were plenty of the special releases remaining and they would definitely not count as leftovers that nobody wanted. I had no difficulty increating a large armful quite quickly. For the most part, I bought every one I found even though my finances were not too happy about it. Despite the negatives, some say about these days, I actually find them quite exciting and it was fun on this particular day to not have to reach over people to grab something of interest. I spoke with a staff member in the store who happened tobe the same person I had communicated via email and phone. I had already told her I was writing an article on the various Record Store Days and their store would be the focus. She confirmed that the store had been extremely busy on Black Friday as I had seen during my brief appearance. I asked her what were the biggest sellers the day before. She said the top three would probably be Type-O Negative, The Grateful Dead and Phish. I gathered up my new found treasures and paid for them at the register. I asked the staff member there if they had any grab bags left. He informed me that they only did that on the main Record Store Day in April. That was a new discovery for me in the difference between the days. I told him about my article and said this would be great to include in it. He was also quite pleased that their store was my focus.

Path to the basement

Now, it was time for my journey to “The Basement” which is truly a cratediggers paradise as I described earlier. As I have indicated before, absolutely everything in this area is 25 cents. The biggest decision to make when entering is what to look at because it would be humanly impossible to go through all that is there. My biggest collection is actually 45s, but I knew that would take forever to go through these. So, it was on to my second biggest collection which is Vinyl LPs. With all the various sections of LPs staring at me, I decided to just pick the section nearest me. It didn't look like a huge section, but it took me quite a while to go through it. I had to kind of create a block of LPs I wanted and that grew quickly. The records stored down here are not graded, but for the most part, they are in decent shape. Of course, most need a good cleaning, but crate diggers are used to this and we know that most vinyl can be salvaged. Sometimes, the covers you find are not in the best of shape and of course, it is not easy to do much about that. However, as I see it, a cover that is in fair shape is better than not having one at all. I really love the ambiance of this area of the store and the rarity of it being open makes it even more desirable. I really loved that the staff member presiding over the area was spinning vinyl records of a great variety of musical genres in no particular order. For example, he played a hip-hop selection immediately followed by “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams. This is diversity at its best which also exemplifies the character of the city of Asheville. The warmness of the occasional crackle of the vinyl made me realize why this medium has always meant so much to me. The selections I found that I wanted were also quite diverse. $6.00 for 24 LPs isn’t a bad price. However, we will not discuss what my total cost was upstairs with the exclusive releases. I made my way back to the car and I obviously parked too far away; however, I got my exercise in for the day too. Lots of vinyl equals significant weight.

I found each of the Record Store Days to be great experiences. It is a special time to be among other music collectors and enthusiasts. Conversations and new friendships can easily be started. I really did not notice people who were there simply tobe buying up items for resale. This may not be true for all record stores, but it certainly appears that way at Harvest Records. The prices for the exclusive releases were not cheap; however, compared to the non-exclusive vinyl in any store they were really not that bad. One thing I have noticed though is that it appears to be true that mainstream artists and record labels do represent the majority of the exclusive releases. The best of both worlds is really presented at Harvest Records with the exclusive Record Store Day releases upstairs and the cratediggers paradise underneath. My personal thought is that why or how you collect vinyl records, as well as other formats, is really up to you the buyer. Each collector is unique in their own way. I believe I fall into the category of most anything goes as far as collecting vinyl records. I will definitely be attending these special days in the future and because they have somewhat reintroduced me to record stores, I will be visiting them much more often wherever I may go. I think it is important to show support for our local independent record stores who have done so much to save vinyl records as well as other physical music formats. Discovering others who share our passion for music is another important and rewarding experience.

view the Facebook event here

>>BLACK FRIDAY (11/23 from 10-8)<<

-Special Record Store Day Black Friday releases (check out the complete list here
-Free beer!
-Basement sale (THOUSANDS of LPs, CDs, 45s, and 78s all for JUST 25 CENTS!!) from 10-5

>>SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY (11/24 from 11-8)<<

-Special Record Store Day Black Friday releases (check out the complete list here
-Basement sale (everything still just 25 cents!) from 11-5
-Local love: bring in a receipt from another West Asheville business to get 10%off your entire purchase!

45 rpm Record Supplies