In a world that grows more digital by the second, record stores remain vital community hubs for people interested in connecting in-person with fellow music-lovers. In college towns, cities large and small and creative downtowns across North Carolina, record stores offer space to talk music with fellow aficionados, engage physically with the media, and spend time “treasure hunting” for that forgotten gem in the used bin. We’ve invited record stores across the state to share their stories throughout the Come Hear North Carolina campaign. For the next installment in the series, we welcome Jay Kenney from Cream Puff Records in Charlotte.
What is the name of your store and where are you based?
Cream Puff Records. 421 Providence Road, Charlotte, N.C.
How long have you been in operation?
Tell us a bit about your store. What is its mission and why is the community you serve a good place for your business?
The mission of Cream Puff Records is to promote the stellar musical heritage of North Carolina, but we’re pretty enamored with independent and experimental music from just about anywhere. We carry new and used vinyl, stocking as many records by North Carolina artists (Nina Simone, John Coltrane, Willie Lowery, Lee Fields) as we can.
Charlotte is an amazing place to run a small music business, and our customers are steadfast in their support of us. From the casual music fans to the serious snobs (we mean that as a compliment), all of our customers are interested in new sounds and understand the important role local artists and businesses play in a creative community. Cream Puff Records shares space with a clothing store, an art gallery, a bookstore and a coffee shop, so a lot of our customers find themselves under our roof for reasons other than buying music. They come in for a cup of coffee or a new pair of shoes, but they often leave with a handful of records too.
Tell us about your customers. Who is buying records? How has that changed over time? What do you think is driving the vinyl resurgence?
We also promote live music around town, so a lot of the folks buying records from us are live music fans who attend our shows. We do our best to nurture ties with the local music and the arts community, so I think people want to support a business that’s committed to being a part of Charlotte’s creative energy.
People are psyched (at least we think they’re psyched) that a place like Cream Puff Records exists, so they’ve been willing to support us – and by extension, the artists and labels we curate – by buying records. Furthermore, they like to invest in artists they like – and streaming just isn’t getting done. A record isn’t just something to listen to. It’s a story to tell, an artifact that captures an artist’s statement at a moment in time.
How people consume, and access music has changed dramatically in the last decade. What do record stores offer in this ever-growing digital/streaming music landscape?
More than anything else, record stores provide the thrill of the hunt. Streaming services are good at helping listeners discover new stuff. But they commoditize music. If you can listen to everything, does anything have value? In a record store, you don’t know what they have when you walk in. You can’t type in a band name and listen to it. Instead, you dig through the bins to see what’s there. You didn’t know what would be there when you walked in – you just had a sense there would be something of interest to you. Of all that record stores offer – a sense of community, a music education, lots of snarky jokes – we think the thrill of the hunt is the most important.
Thank you so much for participating in our giveaway, please tell us which record you are sharing and why you picked it.
Half Tight by The Loose Lugnuts. We picked this record because it represents the side of Charlotte we wish people would think of instead of big banks. Brothers Brian and Mark Wilson lead this Piedmont honky tonk band with a dynamite record collection. They also own The Thirsty Beaver (The Half Tight album cover depicts a scene from there). It’s Charlotte’s best bar and the scourge of apartment developers everywhere.
Where can people find you online?
Facebook: Cream Puff Records
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