Another Place, Another Time: Clearwater’s “Ye Olde Record Shoppe”

records1As an addendum to my post the other day on Vinyl Museum, here’s some memories of the other store I mentioned, which was called Ye Olde Record Shoppe.

Ye Olde was owned by a 60-something year old woman named Irene.  She was the sole owner as well as the sole employee. Perhaps not too flatteringly, but with no ill intentions, my friend Steve used to refer to the place as “Ye Old Lady’s Record Shop”. The small store was a unique outpost in a world of chain stores in malls and hip independent shops with big selections (like the aforementioned Vinyl Museum).  Located in a small strip mall between a pawn shop and liquor store, the selection was mostly used vinyl, with a small selection of used CD’s added eventually (and grudgingly) due to demand.

Irene would order any new release for you that she was able to get, but as a rule she didn’t order much new unless it was specifically requested. This was before the Internet (and even if it was nowadays, I doubt she would have had a computer) and I remember her leafing through thick paper catalogs to find any special request one might make.

She would sit at her counter – an old desk pushed up against a table, which formed one side of the little square area where the CD’s were shelved.  They were kept at the front because they were easier to steal, based on their small size.  She could better keep an eye on them there. Weirdly, she occasionally had delinquent kids grab handfuls of CD’s and run out of the store so they could try and sell them somewhere else (probably at Vinyl Museum). Anyway, Irene would sit there drinking coffee and chain smoking all day, listening to records on the old turntable. Though there was usually nobody else in the store when I visited, she had a solid, core clientele of collectors and a revolving stock of quality titles and artists.  Her records were fairly priced and usually in top notch condition.

If you came in at the right time, you never knew what you’d find. Once somebody had just dropped off a box full of guitar records issued on the old Takoma label by Leo Kottke, John Fahey, and Robbie Basho.  Some of these things were really rare and all were in great condition. She knew what she had, and she could have marked them up and got a lot of money for them from any number of the regular collectors who visited, but she priced them all under $10.00. Intrigued by the cover art of the Basho records (who I hadn’t heard of at that point), she handed me the headphones and cued up The Grail and the Lotus on the record player. I immediately purchased all three of the Basho albums. It was just another of the many musical discoveries I made there over the years.

She had definite musical tastes and was generous in sharing them. A discussion of the solo works of Fleetwood Mac members resulted in her making me a cassette copy of Jeremy Spencer’s first album from her own vinyl copy. That album is still a treasured part of my collection and still criminally out of print.  She was not one to let her musical opinions be overshadowed by business concerns either. One day, I brought a CD of Phil Collins’ fist solo album, Face Value,  up to the counter to buy. She tried her best to convince me not to buy it because she said I would be wasting my money and I’d never listen to it more than once. I still think Face Value is a good piece of work, but I’d probably agree with her about most of Phil’s other solo albums.

With this off-the-grid, non standard business philosophy she managed to stay in business for at least 10 or 15 years (and maybe longer – I’m not sure when she first opened). Her devoted customers kept Ye Olde Record Shoppe afloat, though it must not have been easy for her financially. A good chunk of my records were bought there over the years, however, and I’m happy to say I contributed to such a unique and special music oasis. As with Vinyl Museum, she closed up shop in the early 2000’s. Last I heard (over 10 years ago now), she was running a mail order record business out of her home but had health issues.

 (photo copyright Marc Wathieu, Carnaby Records, from Flickr, used under Creative Commons license; cropped)


11 Comments Add yours

  1. Stories like this tell me a lot about who we are, and especially bring to the fore how times change. I remember spending time in this record shop, and have many great memories about music, opinions, and the moment in time that is largely disappearing, or gone (by this I mean a real record shop). Downloading is an efficient method for delivering music, but there is something really great about the ambiance; the smells, sounds, and people who were The Ye Old Record Shoppe.

    1. michael zingale says:

      I do not know if this comment will reach anyone. the post was a long time ago, but I just found it the other night, and I figured i had to take a chance, just in case someone would get it.
      Irene closed for sure on May 18, 2002, she opened I believe in 1982.
      20 years have gone by, and I feel like it was yesterday, I miss her and the shop more than I can say. I am blind and have been since birth, I’ve faced numerous other challenges since she closed, but, she was always extremely helpful to me. I also loved the 8 lps for $1 section. I was thinking about what David said about her drinking coffee and smoking all day, and how she said not to buy that Phil Collins CD, that was so Irene!
      I kept in touch with her for a while, after she closed, then life happened, and I lost track of her. I have attempted to look her up for years, no telling, but she’d have turned 92 on July 12. david is right, it was just another time, and I believe a simpler time. no she would not have had a computer today. there are other shops, etc, no doubt, it’s just that everything is facebook now, etc, and it’s just hard. thanks David, for the great post and bringing back great memories!

  2. Rob says:

    I agree, but we can take heart in the resurgence of vinyl and record shops in the last few years. Still not as widespread as they once were, but at least it means others feel the same way as us.

  3. Donnie Clark says:

    I went to the Ye olde record Shoppe all the time. In the early 80’s she had a husband that helped her there. Before she closed in 2001, she told me her sight was failing and good vinyl was getting too hard to find anymore. When I showed up she would always put on Frank Zappa. She was great. I miss her and that shop.

  4. Rob says:

    Wow – I didn’t know she had a husband that helped her at the shop at one time – thanks. Also didn’t know the shop was around that far back (early 80’s).

  5. Joel says:

    I used to visit Clearwater regularly from Atlanta. Being a record freak, I’d visit all the shops while I was in town. I love Ye Olde Record Shop and Irene. Such a nice person who knew her music. Bought several Love/Arthur Lee records, along with many others. I also liked Blue Moon books and records. They had an awesome selection of vinyl, but sold most of it off toward the mid or late 90s. I miss all the great record stores. But I have a lot of fantastic records and memories from those days! Thanks for the post!

  6. Rob says:

    Oh yeah, I had forgotten about Blue Moon! I vaguely remember stopping in there once or twice but my only memories of their vinyl was that it was in pretty bad condition (maybe I was there at the wrong time(s), though).

  7. Mike Adair says:

    I used to shop there in the early 90s. I never knew she’d been around that long. I mostly shopped at Vinyl Museum, Bananas and the Oldsmar Flea Market (Ace’s Records). A friend (thanks, Tim Murray!) turned me onto her little shop. She knew her stuff. If I remember correctly she was a bit of a chain smoker. I miss her.

    1. Rob says:

      I used to shop at Bananas and Ace’s too. The name Tim Murray rings a bell – do you know if he used to volunteer at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in the mid 90’s?

      1. Mike Adair says:

        Sorry, Rob. Just saw your comment. Yes, Tim worked at the Aquarium there. I really miss Ace’s. I spent so much money there as a teen. Bought a lot of import special edition vinyl and Kerrang magazines. Stupidly unloaded it all in my 20s.

  8. Rob says:

    Small world – I used to volunteer at the aquarium the same time Tim did – he was a pretty cool guy. We used to discuss music occasionally. While most of us were wearing sandals on those hot days, I remember he used to come in with giant work boots on!

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