Over the past year, as we’ve slogged, cried and persevered our way through the pandemic, I’ve tried to offer up ways to support local music venues and musicians. This week I’m pulling a slightly different thread by suggesting some retail therapy in the form of record shopping in and around Portland and through local stores online. Not only will you support local businesses, you never know what you might find while out there flipping through the stacks.

I reached out to several shops in Portland to check in about sales during the pandemic and found that vinyl, which started its resurgence a few years back, is as popular as ever. Whether you’ve already jumped on the trend or are interested in starting a collection, here are places to look and what they have to offer.

Exterior of Enterprise Records on 151 Park St. in Portland. Photo by Bob Wirtz

Enterprise Records

151 Park St., (207) 773-7672, enterpriserecords.net. Open noon to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

Bob Wirtz opened Enterprise Records in 1987. He told me that the shutdown has been challenging, but he’s gotten by with some disaster relief funds and by selling some rare classical records online. Wirtz reopened in June, and he estimated that sales have recovered about 50 percent, but he’s also noticed that more people are adding to their collections. “A lot of people buying records these days seem to be maybe a little more purposeful about it, more focused, and more excited, but these are people who make the special trip.” Wirtz said that without the live music scene and other pre-pandemic happenings, he’s missing the impulse buyers who would normally be in town for concerts and other events. Inventory-wise, Wirtz says the rock section is by far the biggest, but sales-wise, it depends on the day and who comes in. “Once in a while, somebody might turn the day into an oddball, buying a big pile of soundtracks or something.”

The vinyl area at The Merchant Company. Photo by Todd Russell

The Merchant Company

656 Congress St. (207) 772-8525, merchantco.me. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Todd Russell owns The Merchant Company with his wife, Jessica Russell, and their business partner, Kit Flynn. The shop opened in 2010 and is a haven for an eclectic mix of handmade and vintage items, along with vinyl. Russell told me that they chose to stay closed, for safety reasons, until mid-August. Since reopening, his business hasn’t had as many customers come through the doors because there are fewer people out and about, including Canadian tourists who would frequent the place, but people are still buying records, he said. “It seems like people are listening to vinyl a lot during the pandemic, and when they come in, they are really loading up.” The shop’s primary stock is rock, jazz and punk with a small amount of classical. They also carry quite a bit of children’s music from the 1950s on, which Russell said is a consistent seller.

Interior shot of Abraxas on 650 Congress St. in Portland. Photo courtesy of Abraxas

Abraxas

650 Congress St., unleashabraxas.com. Open noon to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Right next door to The Merchant Company, you’ll find Abraxas, which opened in 2019. Its website describes the shop’s mission as “providing refined collections of subversive materials to the communities of Portland, Maine.” “The idea behind the shop is to have contrasting elements of the music, literature, videos, apothecary and other items all accentuate each other,” said owner Matt  D’Martigan. He said that overcoming financial difficulties during the pandemic continues to be a struggle, primarily because of high overhead costs and the drop in foot traffic. Abraxas’ specialty in the records department is in heavy metal and punk. The shop also carries soundtracks, some pop and local releases, including a section curated by the label Psychic Sounds based in Belfast. Abraxas also stocks most new releases from Out of Season, a Portland-based dungeon synth label. “Other local labels and individual bands do consign records, cassettes, CDs, shirts and patches with the shop as well,” said D’Martigan.

Robin Goodhue with part of Portland Distro’s inventory. Photo by April DeMerchant

Portland Distro

Online only at portlanddistro.com.

Portland Distro, owned by Robin Goodhue and April DeMerchant, operated a retail shop in the State Theatre building but had to terminate its lease when things shut down last March. The owners moved inventory into their Portland home and quickly entered tens of thousands of products into their Shopify online site. Goodhue said that online business has gone up about 500 percent. Portland Distro specializes in punk, metal and indie rock and works with local artists by offering shipping services for them. “Everything online is fully licensed vinyl, 100 percent in mint condition and, if possible, on colored limited-edition vinyl,” said Goodhue.

Moody Lords on 566 Congress St. in Portland. Photo by Morgan Newell

Moody Lords

566 Congress St., (207) 899-1149, on Facebook. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Moody Lords has been a hot spot for vinyl and vintage clothing for a decade. It closed for three months, but since reopening in June, owner Andrew Chang said business has been good. “I think that there could very well be an increase in record shopping due to people quarantining at home, and as listening to records is such a deliberate activity, it gives people something to do.” He also said, and he’s not wrong, that playing records might be the closest people can come to attending a show. Genre-wise, Moody Lords is stocked with rock, free jazz and new age and also has some releases from local artists, including Robert Stillman and Big Blood.

OTHER PLACES TO FIND VINYL

Strange Maine, 578 Congress St., (207) 771-9997, kraag.org.strange. Open noon to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Strange Maine is a funky shop jam-packed with tons of vinyl in every imaginable genre. Inventory is always changing, and visiting is always an adventure. Also a great shop for vintage toys, video games, books, VHS, art and more.

Electric Buddhas, 49 Oak St., (207) 200-8864, electricbuddhas.com. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Electric Buddhas carries a wide variety of records along with CDs, cassettes, T-shirts, posters, patches, magnets and vintage stereo equipment.

Portland Flea-for-All, 538 Congress St., (207) 370-7570, portlandfleaforall.com. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and by appointment.
Portland Flea-for-All is a paradise for all things handmade, vintage and antique. The king of vinyl at the market is Matt Sukeforth of 13th Floor Vinyl. Sukeforth also sells vintage hi-fi equipment, and another vendor named Jim White makes custom record cabinets.

Bull Moose, locations statewide, bullmoose.com.
Although the Portland Bull Moose location closed last year, I’d be remiss to not mention the local record store chain because I’ve bought a tremendous amount of vinyl from their stores since moving to Maine in the ’90s.

Newbury Comics, Maine Mall, South Portland, newburycomics.com.
I also must give huge honorable mention to Newbury Comics. I grew up outside of Boston, and some of my early vinyl purchases came from their original Newbury Street location and the one in Harvard Square. Newbury Comics help solidify my destiny to become a lifelong lover and collector of records.

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