Needle exchange

Bruce Thompson

Photo By Tom Angel

How many people out there have a closet full of old LPs with nothing to play them on? Most of those records will eventually wind up at the thrift store, while their once-proud owners toss out their turntables and spend fortunes replacing that old collection with shiny, new CDs. But for vinyl die-hards, nothing beats the black wax.

Old turntables are easy enough to find, but when it comes time to replace the needle, there’s only one guy in town to call—Bruce Thompson, the service department manager at Sounds by Dave.

It’s pretty hard to find a record needle in town. When did you start selling these things?

Of course, since we’ve been here 27 years, we used to run the whole store with phonograph records. Every system out there on the floor was driven by a turntable. So we’ve sold cartridges and needles ever since Dave started the business. But just in the past few years we’ve put a very modest Web site together, and on the Web site we decided to list and have some really nice digital photographs made of some phonograph needles. It was phenomenal, what happened. We started getting e-mails, phone calls, faxes from all over the United States.

How many do you sell in a month?

Depending on the time of year of course—around winter when people are more inside—I might get eight to 10 emails a day, seven days a week. There have been times when I can’t keep up with the flow. One day I got an email from a gentleman and his wife in Norway, and they had been looking in all the shops in Oslo for a replacement needle. I was able to supply them with some original replacement needles. They became really good customers and friends, and they started sending me digital photographs of their house and their motorcycle and cars—I’ve met some really interesting people.

Is there a type of person who still plays records?

That’s interesting. It’s all ages. You would think it would be older people, but there are a lot of 19-year-olds, 20-year-olds who get a hold of a record collection from a family member … and then they want to burn vinyl to CDs. The comments are, “I can’t find this type of music” or “I can’t find this artist” or “I can’t find these certain recordings anywhere on CD.”

So vinyl’s not dead?

No. Records have kind of gone into a niche market, but it’s definitely not dead.