It was a hot July day when Walter Gibson, owner of Jampac Records, had floors placed around the Monroe store because the building does not have central air conditioning.
âOh no, it’s a real old school record store,â Gibson said. âAnd the point is, we bought this building about 20 years ago, when downtown was probably a cat, dog and horse on the highway. It is more or less that.”
While other companies have seen their customer base decline during the pandemic, Gibson says its sales have increased. This is in part because he has focused on selling online. From that little store in Monroe, he ships records to customers all over the world.
âYou have to be global,â Gibson said. âIf you’re not global, you just won’t make it. And that’s how we did it because when they closed it increased our online sales.
Gibson estimates that around 80% of its business is currently online. Before the coronavirus pandemic, it was split roughly 50-50 between online sales and customers walking through the door. Some of the customers who still shop in person are kids who, to Gibson’s surprise, aren’t looking for pop stars today, but singers from the 40s and 50s.
âA 12 year old girl walks in here and talks to you and says, ‘Are you having Doris Day?’ Gibson said. “I’m trying to understand now which new artist is this? She’s talking about Doris Day. âOh, that day of Doris! “
“If I download it, I won’t have anything in hand”
Gibson launched Jampac over three decades ago. He’s not surprised by the surge in vinyl sales during the pandemic, as people had more free time while isolating themselves at home. Part of the fun, he says, is that people are tired of downloading music.
âWell, everyone comes to the same conclusion,â Gibson said. âIf I download it, I won’t have anything in hand. I buy air. If I buy a record, at least I have something to watch the next day.
Gibson says there is one song in particular that best sums up the pandemic for him both as a small business owner and as an individual: âAint No Stoppin ‘Us Nowâ by McFadden & Whitehead.
âAs long as I can hear this song, I’m motivated to keep doing what I need to do no matter what obstacle is in front of me,â Gibson said.
In Matthews, Noble Records is located at the end of a mall on Independence Boulevard. Customers entering are immediately greeted by the huge record wall to the right.
âWe call it the ‘holy moly wall’,â said Noble Records owner Dillon Smith.
The sacred molybdenum wall is where rare and expensive records are displayed, as Smith says, to keep customers drooling. He points to one in particular: âHonky Tonk Heroesâ by country legend Waylon Jennings.
âThere are a lot of very good players here,â said Smith. âThis is the one people are looking for. It’s super hard to find. I hardly ever see them.
Noble Records specializes in rare and hard to find albums. But the store also has $ 1 and $ 3 sections, brand new albums, and new reissues of old favorites.
âWe have Led Zeppelin, AC / DC, Grateful Dead, Queen, Fleetwood Mac, King Crimson, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, stuff like that,â Smith said.
“People like the tangible aspect of this”
Smith opened Noble just months before the pandemic hit. He was worried the store would fail after Governor Roy Cooper ordered all non-essential businesses to close in the spring of 2020, so he found other ways to reach customers.
âI kind of had the mentality that if I worked really hard while everyone else was relaxing, I would probably do fine,â Smith said. ” And that’s what I did. This is when I really improved my YouTube channel.
Smith says his videos on Youtube attracted many new customers to the store after it reopened. And just like at Jampac Records, many of Smith’s clients have said they’ve always wanted to get into vinyl and that the shutdown has finally given them time to do so.
“Under pressure is when you are refined.”
Dillon Smith, owner of Noble Records
Like Jampac’s Gibson, Smith agrees that one of the draws for newcomers to vinyl is how immersive the experience is to streaming music.
âThey start to go back and say, ‘Hey, maybe we’re missing out on a huge element,’ which is the sound quality, the artwork, the total package of an album,â said Smith. “People love the tangible more than anything.”
Smith saw an increase in business over the holidays and said the store is now on track financially after the uncertainty caused by the closure. He is optimistic about the future. For him, the pandemic can best be summed up by a song he toured extensively last year: “Rock and A Hard Place” by singer-songwriter David Ramirez.
âIt just goes to say how tough the hard times really are, but that’s when it makes you a stronger person,â Smith said. âAnd that’s how you move in life and that’s how you get to a better place. Under pressure is when you are refined.