It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that a sizable portion of my life has been spent buying records. As a teenager, my friends and I would cut school and loiter in strip mall record stores like The Wall, Sam Goody and Strawberries. On the weekends, I’d catch the Broad Street line to Logan and buy reggae records at Coxsone’s Studio One, a store with a massive wall of speakers and bass bins pumping the sound of dub and roots records all day. When I wasn’t at Studio One, I could also be found buying up imports and the latest underground hip hop 12”s from Armand’s old location in Chinatown or Footwork Illadelph in Old City.
The summer that I graduated from high school, I worked as a cashier at Tower Records’ famed location on 6th and South, but I’d spend my lunch breaks buying psych and indie rock records from “cooler” stores like Spaceboy and State Of The Art. In my 20s, I got deeper into record digging and spent countless hours in stores, thrift shops, and sifting around inside a four-foot wide crawl space in some random person’s basement looking for records.
Today, I still find myself on a mission in search of music. With the current resurgence of vinyl as a viable medium for music, record stores are healthier and more plentiful than they’ve been in years. As a town with a deeply ingrained record culture, Philly is home to many great stores for anyone looking to increase and diversify their record collection — and what better time to start than this Saturday, April 23rd, aka Record Store Day? Here are a few of my favorite spots that I like to hit up regularly.
Borderline is right around the corner from my house and it’s hands down one of my favorite spots in the city. The prices are great and they have a pretty robust jazz section considering the store’s relative small size. They always have cool records in their psych and British invasion sections too. Writing this just reminded me that I have to spend some time digging through their 45s.
525 W Girard Ave, @borderlinerexandtapes
Another spot that’s not too far from my house. Milkcrate is dope because there’s a chill cafe/bar with food on the ground floor and a ridiculous stock of records in the basement. The last time I was there, I eyeballed a fresh reissue of Brother Ah’s gorgeous 1975 free-jazz classic Move Ever Onward but opted not to buy it. Instead, I grabbed a bag of records that included 45s of James Brown’s “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved”, Willie West’s “Greatest Love” and a ill bootleg compiling multiple versions of “Get Out My Life Woman.”
400 E Girard Ave, @milkcratecafe
A beautiful, colorful spot in Port Richmond with lots of dope pieces from the artist, Annson Conaway throughout the space. I bought a handful of weird children’s records, a copy of the Maggot Brain zine out of Detroit and a nice copy of Don Cherry’s Where Is Brooklyn?. My partner, Melissa came along and got a bunch of NSync concerts on VHS and a copy of Clipse “Grindin” 12 inch. They’ve also got a bunch of copies of the legendary 70s rock mag, CREEM!
3142 Richmond St, @launderette.records
Repo is an institution at this point. It’s outlasted all of its peers on South Street and every time I’ve gone in there recently, it’s been busy and full of folks of all ages excited buying music. It’s a lovely store, the type of spot you’d take a date and the selections are dope. They keep a lot of new hip-hop, indie rock and pop stuff and the used sections are pretty great too. I can’t remember all that I got last time I stopped by, but I definitely grabbed an anthology record from electronic composer and synth master, Don Muro.
506 South St, @reporecords
Sit N Spin Records
Sit N Spin is dope for punks, metalheads and people who lean toward the heavier shades of guitar music. They also regularly get gems in the jazz, funk and R&B vein. One of my regular spots that I’d visit when I lived in South Philly, Sit N Spin is where I got my copy of trombonist Grachan Moncur III’s New Africa.
2243 S Lambert St, @sitandspinrecords
With a diverse selection and a massive new location, Brewerytown Beats is always good for finding dope records. The last time I popped by, I spent a lot of time in their inexpensive soul/r&b section and flipping through some great gospel records. The highlight of that trip was a super clean copy of Philly avant-garde jazz classic An Engineer Of Sounds by Jimmy Stweart & Kuntu.
1517 N Bailey St, @brewerytownbeats
Beautiful World Syndicate
Beautiful World Syndicate is a gem in South Philly and hands down one of my favorite stores in the city. The bins are packed with goodies and the store has a welcoming, casual ambience. Beautiful World’s Discogs page is heavy, too, and their wide selection of jazz, hip-hop, punk, psych and soul records really held me down in the first few months of the pandemic when everything was in lockdown.
1619 E Passyunk Ave, @beautiful_world_syndicate
In addition to operating as a label and an online platform broadcasting live DJ sets, Great Circles also has a beautiful storefront space on Frankford Ave. Like Milkcrate and Borderline, Great Circles is within walking distance from the crib and the last time I was there, I got a nice reissue of Horace Tapscott and the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra.
2427 Frankford Ave 1st Floor, @great_circles_grcr