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. First up in our Q&A series: Stephen H Judge, the owner of Schoolkids Records, the longest running independent record store in the state.
What is the name of your store and where are you based?
Schoolkids Records, Chapel Hill and Raleigh
How long have you been in operation?
44 years. We did close [our] Chapel Hill [location] for seven years.
Tell us about your store. What is its mission and why is the community you serve a good place for your business?
We are the longest running independent record store in North Carolina and one of the oldest in the United States. Chapel Hill is a great college town and community. It has a vast diversity of cultures (both domestic and international) and has been considered one of the 'best places to live' in the United States for over 25 years now. Having the University of North Carolina just a few blocks away and an incredible music history for such a small town, it makes it an ideal location. The number of 'famous' musicians that have walked through our doors and even worked at the shop over the years is too many to name. R.E.M.'s original manager worked at Schoolkids when he first discovered the Athens, G.A. legends. There is a strong connection with the local community and [with] bands from all over the world. It’s a staple of the community and I am proud that after seven years away I was able to bring the store back to town. It means a lot to me personally. We also have our own label and have a European office in Dublin, Ireland.
Essential North Carolina albums according to Schoolkids Records:
Superchunk - No Pocky For Kitty
Whiskeytown - Strangers Almanac
The Connells - Boylan Heights
Archers of Loaf - Icky Mettle
Hiss Golden Messenger - Haw
6 String Drag - High Hat
Tell us about your customers. Who is buying records? How has that changed over time? What do you think is driving the vinyl resurgence?
This has changed dramatically, it used to be heavily dominated by college students, mostly from UNC. Now it’s more 30+ somethings, local music community lovers, and a new era of younger vinyl crazy millennials. We also do a tremendous amount of business online, all over the world (Australia, Germany, UK, France, Ireland, etc.) so it’s very diverse. We love the vinyl resurgence, it’s amazing.
How people consume and access music has changed dramatically in the last decade. What do record stores offer in this ever-growing streaming music landscape?
In our Raleigh location we have a bar, and a stage. It’s just a 'hang out' [place] where people listen and talk about music. It’s a community, and people trade ideas and stories of the history of music and turn each other onto old and new things. You cannot get that online. It’s a different experience, one on one relationships. We do embrace the digital age as well. We have our own label and also offer streaming of music in the store to sample music they may potentially buy with our 'listening posts/iPads' on the wall.
We are so happy you’re participating in our giveaway! Tell us which record you are sharing and why you picked it.
6 String Drag's High Hat is a classic Americana album. Back in the early 90's when post-punk bands were breaking-up, many were starting country bands [like] Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown, The Backsliders, Trailer Bride, etc. This album stood out as a classic amongst many classics from our area. Steve Earle originally released it on his own label and [he] performs on the album. I reissued it on my label this past year.
What are your social media handles?