As a little girl, I was always building time capsules. I would write letters to my older self and compile them with a few precious toys, to be duct-taped and stowed away until I was older.
I remember uncovering one such box after high school, and along with a worn pink sneaker and my My Little Pony doll, I found a cassette tape of my 5-year-old self singing, “My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Angels.
One of the greatest things about second-hand goods is that they are often time capsules in and of themselves, preserving a time and style we would have otherwise forgotten. Nostalgia keeps us holding on to items from the past, until we find a place for them in the present.
The best example I can think of is old vinyls, once packed away in storage and now slowly finding a place in the display windows of music stores.
Francis Englehardt, one of the owners of Dope Jams, a record store on the corner of Myrtle and Classon, has been collecting records since he was 13 years old.
“The sound quality is night and day,” Englehardt told me, comparing records to MP3s. “There is something natural about [listening to a record] that doesn’t compare to digital.” He laughed and added, “I wish it was different so I didn’t have to lug around 8,000 records all the time.”
Englehardt said that a large portion of the people purchasing vinyls these days are DJs like himself and his business partner, Paul Nickerson. But he hopes that more people buy records for private use.
“It’s so easy now to have music playing and not listen to it, and I think that’s really hurting music,” he said. He explained that with today’s MP3s, iPods and Youtube, people just tend to have music always playing in the background, whereas with a record, more effort goes into playing the songs.
“The process of it makes you appreciate the music more,” he said.
While new records tend to be on the pricey end, you can always find used records for a few bucks a pop, an incredible deal considering the sound quality of the music and durability of the product.
Dope Jams specializes in dance music, including techno, house, and funk, but also carries a selection of other genres (all approved by the owners who hand select records to ensure only the best music).
In addition to Dope Jams, there are several stores that sell used records in the neighborhood.
Records (1113 Fulton Street) on Fulton between Franklin and Classon, specializes in disco, soul, and jazz.
Charlie’s Calypso City (1273 Fulton Street), on Fulton Street between Nostrand and Arlington Place, offers primarily steel band and calypso music, but includes other genres as well.
Further outside of Bed-Stuy, there is Tiger’s Reggae Hut (1092 Nostrand), on Nostrand between Lincoln Road and Maple Street, that specializes in soul and reggae.
Fifth Avenue Records and Tapes (439 5th Avenue between 8th and 9th Streets) in Park Slope offers a bit of everything, a great place to go when you just feel like browsing.
Of course, if you don’t have a record player, all these stores have music in other formats (CDs and cassette tapes).
The best part of these stores is that the owners are truly dedicated to the music, and are often excited to help you find a song or artist that you will enjoy. And discovering new music is worth much more than the cost of a record.
As Englehardt joked, “If we have to trick them, if we have to lie to them, we really just want to sell them good music.”
Dope James hosts monthly dance parties at the store which they DJ (updates can be found at their website, dopejams.net).