Sunday, December 13, 2009

North Jersey Record Store Thriving

Vinyl still spinning at Garfield record shop

The Record

Looking for that hard-to-find song made before a performer became big? Chances are it's among the hundreds of thousands of vinyl records swelling the shelves, stacks and boxes in Charlie Rigolosi's Garfield store.

The 83-year-old music collector has run Platter World since 1975, selling used records that are usually out of print, such as an original, 7-inch acetate recording from the 1960s of Jimi Hendrix's guitar work on "As the Clouds Drift By," a song performed by film star Jayne Mansfield at a Manhattan recording studio.

"There's always someone looking for a special song, and chances are I got it for them," said Rigolosi. "And that makes me happy."

Platter World evolved from Rigolosi's lifelong hobby of collecting records. It began as a mail-order business and claimed a permanent spot in an indoor flea market in Union Township after he retired from his job as chef at a local restaurant. He opened the store around 1984.

Vinyl "platters" hang on the walls and from the ceiling as mobiles. A clothesline swings down the middle of the store holding hard-to-find used records, such as "Victory at Sea in Jazz" by the Aaron Bell Orchestra for $18.

In the digital age of CDs and downloading music, business has slowed substantially, said Rigolosi, but he finds new ways to serve customers. He says vinyl is gaining favor among the least likely: people in their 20s.

Young adults come to the store searching for the vinyl version of classic rock or other music they're downloading, songs such as "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida'' by Iron Butterfly, because vinyl is a novelty to them, he said.

"That helps me a lot," Rigolosi said. "You've got to go with it. You can't fight it."

He talked about the two boys who bought two Michael Jackson albums and one by The Doors, and the 15-year-old record collector from South Jersey who spent more than $200 on doo-wop music and big-band albums.

Rigolosi has found new customers among seniors who find they need CDs when they buy new cars. They ask him to make CDs of music they want or already have, because Rigolosi can record from vinyl, cassettes or reel-to-reel tape.

Disc jockeys have also become loyal fans and buy the larger 78 rpm records because the grooves hold a greater range of high and low notes than digital media, Rigolosi said.

Finally, he's seeing parents with teenage children who are buying the classic rock they grew up with and the kids are picking up on their interest, he said.

With his vast collection, Rigolosi can cater to unusual customers, such as the artist who's been commissioned to cover the interior of a home in Manhattan like the Sistine Chapel with specific album covers and bought about $150 worth of vinyl.

A key to his survival is a collection that includes classical, big-band, jazz, rhythm and blues, doo-wop, comedy, country, movie soundtracks, spoken word, international music and rock. Rock is the most popular, he said. His oldest record? A 1904 track of Enrico Caruso, considered a pioneer of vocal recordings.

Michael Jackson, however, has been the most popular recently, and his solo albums and those when he was with the Jackson 5 line the wall behind the counter.

Rigolosi had an opportunity to sell his business three years ago, but at the last minute the potential buyers drastically reduced the price they said they would pay, Rigolosi said.

"I got so mad it rejuvenated me," he said. "I'm so glad I didn't sell. It keeps me young."