Grooveground – Record Store and Coffee Shop, Audio Interview

In the groove

I had originally planned on doing a video interview with the owner of The Bus Stop Music cafe in part II of the series, however I’ve had to push this back to Monday. In the meantime, I took a trip to another awesome record store that has also embraced the record store/cafe business model which seems to be increasingly popular these days. Check back for part II of The Bus Stop Music Cafe post this week.

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Interior shot of Grooveground

Groove Ground is not only one of the coolest coffee shops in South Jersey, it’s one of the most unique spots in the area to hang out, listen to music and pick up a new record.

Located at 647 Haddon Ave. in Collingswood, mere minutes from a PATCO station, Center City Philadelphia and other areas of Camden County , this coffee shop is surprisingly accessible, open Monday-Thursday from 7AM-10PM, Fridays from 7AM-11PM, Saturdays from 8AM-11PM and Sundays from 8AM-10PM.

Besides offering a delicious and eclectic regular and catering menu, the place is a local hotspot for musicians and music-lovers alike. Aligning the walls are racks of records and CDs which customers can browse through or purchase, ranging from newer releases to old or classic albums. They had a number of classic albums ranging from Nirvana to Led Zeppelin, as well as more contemporary music like Minus the Bear‘s Menos el Oso.

In essence, Groove Ground brings you back to a time when small, independent record shops were the places to be and customers had the freedom to just hang out and listen to a record, even if they didn’t plan on purchasing it. This is extremely rare nowadays, as big corporate chains continue putting music behind glass and selling only what’s mainstream.

Since last February, Groove Ground began hosting “Fridays Live,” which showcases local musicians, bands and artists of all genres in a live/acoustic setting. They also have a special event every second Saturday of the month, from book signings and readings to poetry and art openings, while also hosting community events. They are also a participator in Record Store Day.

In 2008, Groove Ground won “Best of the Best” among coffee shops in South Jersey Magazine, and rightfully so.

Here’s an audio interview with Grooveground employee, Rich DeGregory (the sound in the middle is a milk steamer):

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photos from the Grooveground website

GROOVEGROUND
647 Haddon Avenue
Collingswood, NJ 08108

Phone: [856] 869-9800

Mon-Fri: 7a – 10p
Sat: 8a – 11p
Sun: 8a – 10p

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Going Ivy League – Princeton Record Exchange Review

Alma matters

Since I’m still waiting for the pictures from my trip to Maine, I will wait until I have everything together before I put up the post for my reviews of Strange Maine and Bullmoose Records. In the meantime, I took a trip to the beautiful college town of Princeton, NJ this past weekend and will whet your record collecting appetite with a review of Princeton’s own, Princeton Record Exchange.

The Priceton Record Exchange Storefront

The Princeton Record Exchange Storefront.

When I showed up to the Princeton Record Exchange at 10 am for the store opening, my shoes and my laptop were sopping wet from the past weekend’s relentless rain. The wet shoes I could barely live with, but the wet laptop I could not. After some time in front of the car’s dashboard heater, my Macbook was good to go again, so here we are:

As soon as I walked in, I was happy to see that there was a place for my umbrella right by the door. They were even nice enough to take my wet computer bag for me and hand me a cool, little, laminated ticket so that I could pick it up on the way out. I know from experience that it’s nearly impossible to peruse a record store one-handed, so it was nice to see that they recognize this and have a system in place to free up busy hands.

As I took in my surroundings, I was amazed by the sheer volume of music in this store. The entire left half of the store was dedicated to CD’s and straight ahead was a long aisle of nothing but vinyl records. To the right, past the counter was a wall filled from floor to ceiling with cassette tapes. My first impressions were that the store was very clean and well kept, as well as extraordinarily organized. Total Ivy league. This store had none of the dusty, dinginess that is nearly synonymous with most record stores. And to top it off, Yes was playing in the background, so I immediately felt right at home.

Looking toward the front of the store, the CDs to the right.

Looking toward the front of the store, the CDs to the right.

The long aisle of LPs and the wall of cassettes on the back wall

The long aisle of LPs and the wall of used CDs on the back wall.

I was struck by the meticulous organization of the music at Princeton Record Exchange. The vinyl section, which ran most of the length of the store was broken up into rock, jazz and yes, (headbangers rejoice!) even metal. The vinyl cases were seamlessly alphabetized and prominent bands had their own dividers, as would be expected, but the one thing that struck me was the fact that less-prominent bands frequently had their own little sections. I had never in my lifetime seen an entire section dedicated to lesser-known indie groups such as The Black Keys. In fact, as I looked further, I was amazed by the sheer volume of indie music tucked in amongst the shelves. It was almost akin to the volume of indie music that a store that specializes in indie would have, except that it was nicely balanced out by more popular bands, both old and new.

Speaking of old and new, both new and used vinyl graced their shelves side-by-side. There were older artists on brand new 180-gram vinyl reissues, alongside the original used copies. There was also a plethora of brand new music out on vinyl. My only criticism was that there was no designated “New Releases,” section to make the new music slightly easier to find, but this all added to the fun of digging through the eclectic mix of records on the shelves.

I was surprised to see that there was even a small section designated to audiophile original master recordings, something that I’ve never seen before.

Original Mater Recording section.

Original Mater Recording section.

The overall quality and condition of the records offered was exceptional. There was nothing I could find on the top shelves that was in less than new, mint, or near-mint condition. But you get what you pay for, so these older mint records were a little on the pricey side. There was a mint copy of Pink Floyds A Nice Pair that was being offered for $34 because of its outstanding condition and relative rarity (this one says $13.99, but trust me, there was a $34 one):

A very nice pair (of records).

A very nice pair (of records).

Here were some of my findings at Princeton Record Exchange:

There were also a number of unexpected gems that I came across in this store, such as a beautiful MC5 High Time Picture disk and a limited copy of Thom Yorke‘s Being Pulled Apart By Horses.

Oh, and by the way, there was also a really great $1 special section at floor-level, below the main displays of records. These records were also in surprisingly good shape and were an absolute steal. You’ll have to do a little sifting though, as these records were mostly unorganized.

The employees at Princeton Record exchange were fantastic and there was one instance when an album came on in the store that I absolutely loved. I walked up to the desk to ask what was playing and a cute redhead informed me that I was hearing Electric Warrior by T-Rex. This was an album that I had to have and I was thrilled to discover a great new (1971) band. The employees here definitely capitalized on one of my favorite pastimes of record collecting, which is simply talking music with the store owners. These people were plain friendly and knowledgeable and loved to talk.

Check out T-Rex here. You definitely know this song:


Here was what I wound up buying for a total of $34 (same price as the one Floyd record):

Pink Floyd's "A Nice Pair," T-Rex's "Electric Warrior" and a $1 Maynard Ferguson record.

Pink Floyd's "A Nice Pair," T-Rex's "Electric Warrior" and a $1 Maynard Ferguson record.

A Nice Pair was a must-have, plus the artwork is priceless. Electric Warrior might just be my new favorite album and I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s into straight, good, early 70’s rock with a slight glam undertone. As the man at the checkout counter informed me, this record is his favorite by T-Rex and is quite a departure from their first few albums which were much more acoustic. And I had to get the Maynard Ferguson album because well, he’s a plain and simple terrific jazz musician. Plus it was a dollar.

One happy customer.

One happy customer.

In summary, I was very pleased with Princeton Record exchange and I would highly recommend it to anyone. The store was clean, organized and had an unbelievable offering of music, both new and old. The employees were friendly and knowledgeable and they even let you keep the plastic record sleeves with your purchases (can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen those taken at the counter. Total pet peeve).

Point blank, this is one of the coolest record stores that I’ve come across in recent memory and yeah– it’s totally ivy league.

Argyle is optional– for the record.

PRINCETON RECORD EXCHANGE

20 S Tulane St.
Princeton, NJ 08542
(609) 924-3472
www.prex.com

Store hours:

Mon-Sat: 10 am-9 pm, Sun: 11 am-6 pm