Greenpoint is about to dot its map with another record store: Academy Record Annex, currently on N 6th St and Wythe Ave in Williamsburg, is coming to the hood sometime this September.
Academy, known for its nearly-impenetrable stacks of used records and its lived-in Williamsburg storefront, is moving to 83 Oak Street – a spacious, high-ceilinged, sunny building on Franklin St across the street from Cookie Road and a block north of Jimmy’s Diner (formerly Calyer). Academy’s current building in Williamsburg is being razed in favor of high-end retail and condos; we’re told J. Crew is moving somewhere on the block, perhaps into the same address.
Academy co-owner Mike Davis isn’t happy that he’s being forced to leave his current space, but he recognizes that the owners of his current space are ready to move on to more upscale businesses. “I know they’re looking for the kind of rent that an operation [like J. Crew] can pay,” he told Greenpointers.
Davis says that after the move, Academy will stay the same size and keep the same amount of inventory. The new store has “20 foot ceilings and a ton of windows,” he says. “It’ll actually be a better space when the smoke clears and the dust settles.”
Davis, who also owns the Academy store in the East Village, thought about moving to Bushwick, but the chaotic balance of retail, living, and unoccupied space in that big and unwieldy neighborhood dissuaded Davis from settling there.
“I’ve always liked it in Greenpoint,” said Davis, who has lived in Greenpoint since 1992. “It’s definitely getting a certain amount of the Williamsburg exodus, people can’t afford to be here anymore.”
Greenpoint already shelters three record stores (soon to be four, with Captured Tracks’ planned record store/trading post in the building at 195 Calyer St). Permanent Records, on Franklin St and Huron St; Record Grouch, on Manhattan St and Huron St; and Co-Op 87 on Norman Ave and Guernsey St all call the hood home. The new Captured Tracks outlet, which is supposed to open soon, is the project of Mike Sniper, Captured Tracks owner and former Co-Op 87 co-owner.
“I think it’s a plus to have a lot of record stores around [the new location],” Davis said. “When people go record shopping, they’re more likely to hit a neighborhood where they can hit more record stores, rather than just one.”
We found Permanent Records owner Marjorie Eisenberg behind the counter with staff member Matthew Milligan on a recent weekday evening. “We think the more the merrier,” Eisenberg said. “[Greenpoint] is just the next neighborhood for people to come to. Better here than some place far flung.” P-Recs’ spot on Franklin is probably the most spic-and-span of the record shops in the neighborhood; their tidy shelves and copious amounts of shiny new vinyl make for a store less ideal for crate-digging than casually gazing at cool new record covers.
Meanwhile, Brian Gempp was covering the counter over at Record Grouch. “I think it’s great news,” said Gempp, who co-owns Record Grouch with Doug Pressman. He ruminated on the record store business. “It’s the inverse of normal retail competition, where the bigger guys push out the little guys. The greater the concentration [of record stores] in a neighborhood, the better for all of us.”
The collection at Record Grouch is a little more frayed. You can pick up the self-released diamond in the rough from a solo Atlanta funk act that will be a staple at your house parties for the next ten years, but the bin from which you plucked it – and the whole interior of the store – is about as bare bones as it gets.
With an increasing number of options in Greenpoint, each record store needs something unique to set it apart – especially if the stores want people to come back. Not only does Academy strike a balance between the peruser-friendly vibe at Permanent Records and the gems-rescued-from-a-flood stacks at Record Grouch, but it’s got a huge used collection – probably the biggest in the city – and the records are cheap.
“When the price point starts to get too high,” Davis says, “[record shopping] is not that much fun, and it’s not just something you can do in a casual way. That’s also why… I’m primarily a used store.”
Or, as Jimmy’s Diner owner Chuck Van Dyck puts it: “People want to go to Academy because they’re going to find a German pressing of ‘Lola versus the Powerman’ by the Kinks and the cover is going to be nice. And they’d probably just put in their dollar bin.”
Van Dyck is excited to have Academy moving to his quiet block, where Williamsburg becomes Greenpoint, for the foot traffic it will bring. He also sees it as a boon for the record nerds. “They have eight new arrivals bins to dig through. No other record stores [around here] have that.”
Meanwhile, the block Academy currently occupies – featuring an American Apparel, a cocktail bar, and, soon, luxury condos – perhaps presents an ominous possible endgame for the indie shops of Greenpoint. Nate Stark, who was holding down the counter at Co-Op 87, mused on the turn of events that is bringing Academy to the neighborhood. “I mean, to see that that part of Williamsburg has gotten to the point where a record store can just up and become a J. Crew – that pretty much says it all.”