Prex, the Shop Heard Round the World, Celebrates Thirty Years Next Weekend
This article was published in Town Topics on April 14, 2010
Like Trex, its partner in rhyme, Prex is a rock legend. Customs inspectors in distant lands know the yellow Princeton Record Exchange bag with the cheerleader in mid-leap, CD in one hand, LP held high in the other. The worldwide name recognition is for real.
“We have a large cadre of collectors and dealers who come from Japan, Germany, France, Brazil, Greece, and many other countries,” says store manager Jon Lambert, who makes a cameo appearance, along with salespersons Rachel Mockler and Sabrina de la Torre in this week’s Town Talk. “Our vinyl in particular is what draws them in. One of the main reasons we made our online video store tour was to show our potential foreign customers that it’s worth visiting us, and it seems to be paying off. For example, I’ve been corresponding with a music store owner from Spain who is coming to the U.S. next week just to shop here at Prex.”
The video tour is something else. You don’t just tour the store, you actually look through a bin full of Blue Note rarities guaranteed to make a jazz collector’s mouth water. It’s like point-of-view porn with records. And the hits keep coming. In the past two weeks Prex purchased a 1,500 jazz LP collection and a 9,000-plus classical CD collection.
Lambert attributes the store’s talent for coming up high on many music-related online searches to “the relevance of our store and the number of people who link to our site. We have a YouTube channel where we show small videos about the store and some of our more notable collections; we have a Twitter account, and we just recently created a Facebook page. In just a few weeks, we already have over 2,400 fans.”
In another YouTube-style sampler, you see an inside joke of sorts as the inimitable Barry Weisfeld, the Prex founder and owner, makes like a customer bringing in a huge stack of records and CDs. Adorable young maids surrounded by delirious panoramic visions of DVDs and CDs and albums beckon temptingly in another sequence.
With a Mecca like that waiting on little old Tulane Street, no wonder the Prex pilgrims have been willing to slog through construction machinery and all the inevitable chaos and noise as a new building goes up where the parking lot used to be. Access to the store has been a challenge for more than a year now. “We were sorry to see the parking lot go,” Lambert admits. “But the Borough helped with their signage, and overall our business has remained strong throughout the construction”
As for what’s been selling best, “We have such a tremendous variety of music and such a wide customer base that it is very difficult to pin down any few biggest sellers,” says Lambert. If you want a sense of the range of customer taste, check out this week’s Town Talk. You’ve got jazz (John Coltrame), big band (Stan Kenton), punk and alternative (Green Day, Muse), blues and R&B (Etta James), pop folk (Jackson Browne), not to mention soul, rap, hip-hop, an Irish folk singer-songwriter, and afrobeat with Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, composer, political maverick, and human rights activist Fela Kuti.
Before he joined Prex, Lambert managed a chain record store at Quakerbridge Mall. “Keeping abreast of the top pop charts for a couple of years, I thought I knew most of what there was to know about music,” he recalls. Then along came the Record Exchange. “I was absolutely blown away. The staggering scope of genres, musicians and titles that flew (and continue to fly) through our place humbled, excited and overwhelmed me,” not to mention “the incredible customers with their passions and loyalties, and the never-ending adventure of discovery.”
Celebrating the 30th
The weeklong celebration, which begins on Saturday April 17 in conjunction with Record Store Day, features live music, daily raffles with prizes, lots of freebies and a large and alluring lineup of limited edition merchandise. The party ends on Saturday, April 24, at Princeton’s Communiversity festival.
The live music on April 17 coincides with the Princeton Public Library’s Earth Day Festival. In Hines Plaza, next to the library on Witherspoon Street, Chris Harford with His Band of Changes and Dinner (featuring Prex staff member Ben) will perform from 2 to 4 p.m., with special guest Richard Barone (formerly of the Bongos) slated to play a few numbers in-between. In addition to a table on Hinds Plaza, the Record Exchange will have appraisers on hand at the store for those interested in recycling their music and movies.
Also starting that day, Prex will be raffling away eight days of prizes, starting small with T-Shirts and gift cards, ramping up to a USB turntable and a grand prize of both the stereo and mono Beatles box sets (a $400 value). These free raffle tickets will be available at the library concert and at the store throughout the week. Prex will have tons of free stuff, the bulk supplied by the folks who put together Record Store Day, the annual celebration of independent music stores.
Over 150 limited edition titles distributed exclusively to independent music stores will be released on Record Store Day. You can download the Record Store Day Releases PDF at www.prexnj.com. According to Lambert, quantities on most of the titles are extremely limited, so “no promises. We have ordered heavy, but don’t know what we will receive.”
Record Store Day is a tribute to over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA, and hundreds of similar stores internationally.
Speaking of tributes, Paul McCartney, whose album Red Rose Speedway (pictured here) was bought when Prex was a gleam in Barry Weisfeld’s eye, says it straight up: “There’s nothing as glamorous to me as a record store.”
This Article was written by Stuart Mitchner and Published in the Town Topics on 04/14/10. We appreciate their attention to the local businesses of Princeton, and highly recommend Town Topics to all of our customers.