Chuck

Donnie Anderson, left, and Rick Laubly, right are friendly competitors in vinyl record stores in Atlantic Beach and Beaufort, riding a wave of interest in the revived popularity of the once-dominant form of music delivery. (Chuck Waters photo

 

CARTERET COUNTY —Whether you've still got a box of your parents' scratchy, battered old LPs stashed away in a closet or you're a vinyl "newbie,"  chances are you've never heard of Peter Goldmark. But when Columbia Records introduced the "Long Playing" (33 1/3 rpm) 12-inch record format at a press conference in 1948, Mr. Goldmark and his engineering team launched a new era in recorded music. 

The fact that LPs are still with us today when other formats (78s, 8-track and cassette tapes) have faded is a testament to their longevity as well as their popularity. Even the Compact Disc (CD) — launched in the early 1980s as the "next big thing" in digital media — has seen sales decline over the last decade. One example: Best Buy no longer stocks CDs but does offer select LPs  for sale in stores.

While national chains such as Tower Records, Peaches, Record Bar/Tracks and Sam Goody are no longer with us, small independent record stores are thriving. According to www.satista.com, there are currently more than 1,400 "indie" record shops in the United States and thousands more internationally. Two of those small record stores are in Carteret County: Wino Records in Atlantic Beach and Gyre Records in Beaufort.

Saturday, April 23, marks the fifteenth anniversary of Record Store Day, which was conceived at a gathering of independent record store owners and staff in Baltimore. in 2007 with the charter of "celebrating the culture of the independent record store." Some shops mark the occasion by offering special in-store promotions and sales of exclusive RSD albums. But for Donnie Anderson (Wino) and Rick Laubly (Gyre) , "Every day is Record Store Day."

Or should be.

G IS FOR GYRE

Rick Laubly has served on ships ranging in size from "30 to 300 feet," including a Duke Marine Lab maritime research vessel and a Beaufort tour boat. He launched Gyre Records in 2016 after Downeast Bound Music in Morehead City closed  "at a time when small music stores all over the country were closing." The store offered musical instruments, repairs and lessons, and Rick had a few crates of records for sale as well. With Downeast gone, he decided on his current location at 1390-A Lennoxville Road (also home to Mill Whistle Brewery and Beaufort Picture Show). 

It's easy to miss if you're not looking for it, despite the red, white and blue "OPEN" flag out front and a small green GYRE RECORDS sign on the side of the one-story building facing the gravel driveway. But it's worth the search.

Incidentally, the store's name is a nod to Rick's seafaring days: Webster's defines GYRE as "a circular or spiral motion or form; especially a giant circular oceanic surface current." And it should be noted that records also "spin" on a turntable!

In addition to stocking literally thousands of vinyl records — everything from classic rock, blues, jazz, R&B, folk, reggae, country, soundtracks, and even a few classical discs, Rick also carries a large selection of 45 rpm singles and a wall rack loaded with cassette tapes. Prices can range from dollar-bin specials to choice titles for upwards of $20 to $25. A nice first edition copy of "Meet the Beatles" on Capitol recently went for $50. And if you're in the market for some high-end audio gear (Marantz, Phase Linear, Pioneer. etc.), he can fix you up with a turntable, amp, turner, cassette deck and speakers.

Rick's shop is more about product and less on ambiance, with a few framed period concert posters (Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones) adorning the otherwise bare white walls. But the man knows his stuff. Ask him about a particular album and he can tell you whether it's a first pressing or a latter-day reissue, which makes a big difference on the sticker price. And he's just as knowledgeable about the audio gear he sells. Just don't get him started on Crosley portable record players.

His personal music collection is well represented by classic and contemporary blues/rock artists, although he refuses to be "locked in" to any one genre. Rick keeps his inventory stocked with new titles by buying collections that customers drop off or by checking out vinyl sales online. And if there is a specific title you're keen to have, chances are good Rick can locate it for you.  He made one customer's day recently with an out-of-print Tears for Fears album he sold for 25 bucks. 

"Meant everything to that kid," Rick smiled.

W IS FOR WINO

Across the bridge (three of 'em, in fact) is Wino Records at 407-16 Atlantic Beach Causeway. Donnie Anderson says he worked in restaurants (food and beverage) "my entire life" but eventually reached a point where he "wanted out." With a diverse record collection of his own ("Allman Bros. to Zebra"), Donnie already had a fair knowledge of music but credits his friend Lucas Morrison with giving him a nudge to open a record store.

"Lucas found the spot and kinda talked me into it. The stars aligned and it all fell into place," Anderson recalled. But the name "Wino Records" was Donnie's idea.

"Why 'Wino'? I like wine." 

Simple enough.

Donnie was fully aware of Rick Laubly's Gyre Records shop in Beaufort when he opened Wino Records in June 2019. But both record store owners are friends and see themselves as collaborators, rather than competitors.

"Again, Lucas found the spot on the Atlantic Beach Causeway. And the town of Atlantic Beach has been very supportive, Morehead City did not seem like the right fit. Beaufort has Rick at Gyre, who has been a great mentor and friend. I needed a little space between Rick and I to keep us both 'honest'," Donnie said.

Mr. Laubly agrees, adding that he and Donnie will frequently call each other to check on inventory: If Rick doesn't have the Chicago album a customer is looking for, Donnie might. And vice-versa. Donnie made a visit to Rick's shop recently to pick up a stack of Herb Albert albums when Wino was fresh out of Tijuana Brass records.

"I wish we had 10 record stores in the county, instead of just two," Rick said. 

Mr. Anderson's shop has the feel of a 1960s vintage record store, with posters, T-shirts and ephemera on display. in addition to racks of albums filed alphabetically by the artist's first name. Steve Miller is filed under "S" for Steve instead of "M" for Miller, for example. A big perk for Donnie is the presence of Mupps, his friendly pet chihuahua, who will personally greet just about every customer who enters. 

"My boy Mupps gets to come to work with me every day. It doesn't get better."

While each shop may have a slightly different "vibe" and clientele, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Laubly agree that "best sellers" tend to be FM rock radio staples: Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Journey, Billy Joel. That kinda 80s rock. Can't keep them in stock, they agree. 

Donnie says customers in the 18-to 30-year-old bracket seem to buy the most records, while shoppers aged 30 and older seem to be "on the hunt" for that one album.

"Ages 18 to 30 will buy ten $5 albums at a time, but 30 and older will buy the $120 Grateful Dead album," he explained. Most albums range in price from $12 to $25, but there are plenty of $5 and $8 records, too.  

Mr. Laubly and Mr. Anderson are ""riding the wave" of the resurgent interest in LP records and are optimistic the wave won't crest soon.

"Vinyl is trending right now. It's cool, It's fun, it's hands on. It's about the hunt. Nothing lasts forever, but right now, it is one hell of a ride. I am glad to be on it," Donnie said.

Contact Chuck Waters at 828-606-6741 or tjosgooode@gmail.com

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