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Record shop ties fate to downtown

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Brian Rodriguez, 19, looks through records Friday at Station Square Records in downtown Rocky Mount.

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Staff Writer

Monday, March 26, 2018

It’s hip. It’s colorful. It has a logo that would hold its own in the most up-and-coming neighborhood of Brooklyn.

It serves stacks of what hipsters dream of and would pair well with a craft beer, new restaurants, breweries, corn hole and some foot traffic.

It’s Station Square Records, the only vinyl record store in Rocky Mount or the immediate beyond. And it’s open from Wednesday through Saturday at 301 South Church St., a colorful beacon in the middle of an otherwise sagging downtown setting.

While reinforcements are on the way — a coffee shop is set for an April opening and Muttley Crew, a pet boutique to open next door, is also eyeing an April opening — along with a few other options, the shop has helped prop up the surrounding area.

The natural question begs: Why the current location and not the Rocky Mount Mills, with all the ongoing buzz? Of course, you wouldn’t be the first to float that question to the owners.

“Here, people have the attitude of, ‘I know that there’s the Mills and I know there’s Raleigh,’” said Kellianne Davis, who helped open the store along with her boyfriend, Richard Draper III. “We’ve tried to cast a much wider net.

“It was a way we could be more complimentary to the mill. We can be family-friendly. We can appeal to older, younger. As opposed to the mill, you’re just in this box of hipster. It’s just the passion of wanting to be somewhat catalytic to downtown.”

Davis, who moved to Rocky Mount in April 2017 after getting her master’s degree in public administration from East Carolina University, works for the city. One of her initial positions was in downtown development.

The store, with racks of records, grab bags and sputtered-out turn tables in a 600-square-foot room splotched yellow, so far has been more of a hit among the older, nostalgia-driven crowd who simply cannot believe a record shop exists in Rocky Mount — not the young-and-bearded in search of a vintage homage to their new favorite ’80s band, the type one might find in a Raleigh or Charlotte record store. As such, the goal, said Davis and Draper, who inspired the store with his long-going hobby, has not necessarily been to hit millennials over the head with the idea.

But there has been a steady flow of teenagers, local producers and college students, like Landon Clark, who works at the store part-time. Clark is a recent record fan who heard about the store from his roommate, who himself found out during an event at N.C. Wesleyan College.

“I bought my first record from a pawn shop because I was so anxious to start collecting,” he said. “I came in here, and there was way more stuff.”

Another tool has been social media — they’re on Instagram and Facebook and have several times posted an available record on their Facebook page with an eager buyer on sight soon after. They have 615 “likes” on Facebook, 32 reviews — all five-star — mostly from people thankful for an out-of-the-ordinary store in Rocky Mount.

The question for the two owners, who each work full-time jobs during the day and rent the space for $675 a month, is whether their concentrated and appreciative customers will provide enough momentum to pull the store through an after-Christmas lull.

As of right now, there are no regrets for David and Draper — no wondering if they jumped the gun on downtown a little too soon. As a city worker involved heavily in the malnourished neighborhood, Davis was tired of hearing about all the potential without the action. The record store is the manifestation. Now they hope all the “coming soon” signs will be of help.

“Right now, the only regret we will have is if for some reason the community just doesn’t get behind downtown, which I don’t see happening with the event center and the coffee shop coming,” Davis said. “If for some reason all these cool things move in and we’re still twiddling our thumbs on a Wednesday evening, then maybe we’ll have regrets. But right now, we’re too early, maybe too dumb — maybe too hopeful.”

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