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Reports of indie music store's death greatly exaggerated

Jon Lambert - 05/11/07

Princeton Record Exchange, one of Princeton's best-known independent retail stores, is pleased to announce that we have renewed our lease and plan to stay for “the foreseeable future” in our downtown location at 20 S. Tulane St.  Jonathan Lambert, the general manager of the Record Exchange says, “We are very happy to put this period of uncertainty behind us.  We look forward to many more years of serving the local community and our far-flung fans”. 

Since 1980, Princeton Record Exchange has been buying and selling new and used music and movies.  With upwards of 150,000 new and used CDs, DVDs, and records, we are one of the largest independent music stores in the country.  Our legions of loyal customers range from locals to visitors from around the world.  The store features unique attractions like our “budget” sections of over 20,000 CDs under $5.00, thousands of records for $1.00, and thousands of DVDs for under $5.00.  Add to that hundreds of sought-after rarities, an impressive selection of less-common recordings in almost every music genre, and a fine offering of main-stream, art-house, and foreign films on DVD, and it is easy to understand our popularity. 

For over a year, rumors have been swirling that the Record Exchange would soon be no more. Barry Weisfeld, the owner, comments, “The concern of our customers has been overwhelming.  It has been hard to walk around town without people constantly stopping me to ask what was going to happen to the business”. The prominent “for sale” signs on the  20 S. Tulane building, the ongoing downtown Princeton reconstruction, the closing of local establishments like Micawber Books, and the decline of traditional music outlets, have all helped fuel speculation that we would be forced to move or close our doors. 

Downtown Princeton has been going through major reconstruction for several years now.  Stage one has been completed, and the public library, the courtyard, and the five-deck parking garage have already become fixtures in the community.  Stage two is scheduled to begin this year and will involve, among other things, tearing out the parking lot on S. Tulane St., just off Nassau St, and constructing a five-story multi-use building.   

Adjacent to the stage two area are the two partially connected buildings of nos. 20 and 12 S. Tulane St. Since mid-2005 they had been for sale.  In late 2006, Verbeyst Cleaners, the tenant at no.12, shut down after almost 100 years in business.  This led many to fear that the entire structure might be torn down to make room for a new, larger building—an unannounced “stage three” of Princeton's redevelopment that would force Princeton Record Exchange to move or close.   

To further complicate the Record Exchange's situation, the music industry as a whole has been experiencing a major upheaval.  Around 100 million iPods have been sold word-wide, and downloading music, legally and illegally, is now the way many people obtain their music.  Music industry experts estimate that since 2003 over 30% of all independent music stores and 50% of the major chain stores have closed.  The recent demise of the mega-chain Tower Records is a notable example of the many challenges that traditional music outlets are facing. 

In spite of this paradigm shift, the Record Exchange continues to thrive.  Mr. Lambert credits our success to the quality of our stock and the advantages of being an independent single store. “Much of our time is devoted to finding collections of desirable titles for resale.  We are proud of the depth of our selection, the quality of our merchandise, and our low prices. We also have the ability to be nimble and quickly adjust to the changing market.  When one type of merchandise seems to be faltering, say full-price new CDs, we are able to allocate more space and resources to a type that is on the rise, for example our expanding DVD department”.   

In late 2006, the building at 20 S. Tulane St., housing Princeton Record Exchange and John's Shoe Repair, was purchased.  By renewing the Record Exchange's lease, the new owner has shown that he intends to keep the building as it is. We are sure that our many customers will applaud that decision for years to come.


This Article was written by our very own Jon Lambert for the public awareness of our Independent Music Store's operational status. It has not been directly sent to print.


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