VINYL DJ JONATHAN TOUBIN’S GUIDE TO RECORD SHOPPING IN NYC
Having arrived in New York during the ’90s, Jonathan Toubin—DJ and purveyor of the world famous New York Night Train dance party and its obscenely popular “rock ’n’ soul” franchise Soul Clap—has witnessed the city’s record collecting scene change constantly. But even though a number of famously eclectic shops like Bleecker Bob’s have closed their doors, and new, more commercial outposts like Rough Trade have swooped in to fill the void, it’s not all bad. In fact, it’s actually led to some great new constellations on the scene, brimming with their own energy.
“When I was younger, every door on St. Mark’s Avenue was a record store,” Toubin recalls. “But the rent in Manhattan has made it hard to do record store mainstays like the dollar bin. So you have to be doing some volume to do business.”
There is an upside to the more commercially-minded record stores, though. As Toubin notes, “There’s not the proliferation of record stores downtown that there was historically. The culture is a little different, but there’s probably more record stores in NYC now, total, than there has been in a long time.”
Toubin points to the fact that LP collecting has become so mainstream that every neighborhood in New York has its own serviceable outpost, like, say, Black and Gold’s curated and contemporary LP selection in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. However, if you’re coveting a search and hope to do some crate-digging, you’ll still be able to find that experience downtown at the following Toubin-endorsed spots.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
“A-1 is a DJ’s store. Whenever you go there you see notable DJs shopping, and they have everything. It’s not as much of an LP place as Academy is, but it’s a great place for 12” singles from the past, or for me, lots of mambo and things like that. It’s good for dance music. And it’s still incredibly cheap. You can find some bargains.”
439 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009; T. (212) 473-2870
“I’ve been going [to Academy Records] so long I can barely even remember when I first went there. Everyone who works there has been around a long time, even the owner….Both stores [there’s also a location in Brooklyn] are great. For what I’m looking for, I can find cool rare soul, and garage, and punk; cool 45s, reggae things. For other people, they have some of the best LPs around. They have a lot of stuff coming in all of the time. Academy is kind of a no-brainer. It’s probably the best record store in New York at this point.”
“Academy has done a really good job of keeping with its regular older customers as well as the new vinyl collectors. It’s a cool place, it’s a contemporary place, but can find deep things there. It’s fairly priced. Part of why it’s one of the only stores that’s still around is that they’ve done a great job.”
415 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009; T. (212) 780-9166
“They have a limited selection of really quality records. Someone like me can go in and find a cool record, something deeper than the usual find. They have some interesting stuff too for a generalist.”
218 E 5th St, New York, NY 10003; T. (212) 529-2081
“There’s a cool store that just opened in this mall in Chinatown. It’s really well curated with a very small selection.. [The owner] has books; the store is half book, half records. There’s not a lot of stuff, but everything he has is really tight; experimental….It’s kind of hidden, but he has a little following going on…it’s a scene, which is cool for a new place. They’ve got a whole community going on there.”
75 E Broadway #205, New York, NY 10002; T. (212) 796-2184
“Generation Records is real old-timey. It’s been going for decades and you can still find some really unusual things there. They have a lot of punk and underground music of different sorts. Everytime I come down there I find something I like. It’s really random, in a great way.”
210 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012; T. (212) 254-1100
Jim Gergiou’s Record Stand
“There’s a cool guy on 23rd and 7th. He used to live in the Chelsea Hotel. He sells LPs on the street and has a really good selection. He was in the news a lot recently because when he left the Chelsea, he took all the doors and was auctioning them off. You can get Dylan Thomas’s door, for instance. He got kicked out of the Chelsea, and started a record business around the corner.”
23rd Street and 7th Avenue
“The best record store is Rebel Rouser….It’s very well known. It’s on Punk Alley in Bushwick. If you like rock ’n’ roll, they have the best curated selection. They have all sorts of 45s from deep stuff to new stuff, a lot of glam and power pop, and punk LPs. They’re really really great.”
867 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11206
Other notable spots to check out: Mercer Street Books & Records in Greenwich Village; and Record Grouch, and Captured Tracks in Brooklyn.
Words Corban Goble