It felt like 1989 again, for a few weeks at least.
Music lovers turned back the clock, rushing to local record stores to purchase a hotly anticipated CD. And one longtime record store in Berks County was a major beneficiary.
Taylor Swift recently began offering an extremely limited run of signed CD copies of her latest album, “Folklore” to selected stores across the country, including Young Ones Records in Kutztown.
“The distributor picked out a bunch of stores around the country that they have a relationship with, and offered them to us,” said Christopher Holt, Young Ones owner. “We had to respond basically immediately because they were next-daying them out (Aug. 19) so we could have them (Aug. 20). The first round went really well, so then we were able to secure some more for this second round (Aug. 24).”
Holt received 60 copies of the album Aug. 20, twice as many as most stores received due to the store’s proximity to Swift’s native hometown of Wyomissing. That batch sold out in three hours.
“Because no one else around here has them, we had people coming from New Jersey, we had people driving from York and Lancaster and all over the place,” he said. “And before you knew it they were gone, and I don’t know if anyone from the Reading area even got any because they sold so fast. So when they had the second round, I said I needed more.”
And more he got. The second shipment of 150 discs was more than any store in the country received. Holt decided that the first 50 would be sold to whomever came in the door requesting one, but the last 100 would be reserved for those living in the Berks area. The first 50 discs sold out in a few hours; the remaining 100 took a bit longer due to the restrictions.
The surprise release is fitting for the record, itself a surprise release. Swift dropped "Folklore" on July 24, one day after announcing its existence on social media. It's her eighth studio release and her seventh consecutive album to hit No. 1.
The sought-after disc was a welcome shot in the arm for Young Ones, which will celebrate 30 years in business this year. Holt founded the store in 1990 soon after graduating from college. The location moved a few times before landing at its current site on South Whiteoak Street.
Like most small businesses across the country, Young Ones was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. But Holt found ways to stay productive and develop new revenue avenues.
“To be closed for two-and-a-half months is bad, but we’ve come out the other side and we’re still doing OK,” he said. “We really upped our online business. We found some things that sold, like puzzles. Everybody went crazy for puzzles during the lockdown, and we had a good source for music puzzles that we were getting from England. …
“And we took advantage of the time we were closed to catch up on pricing things, because we always have so many things getting traded and used and we can’t keep up. So when we opened the doors in June, we had all the new inventory for people to see.”
One of the many casualties of the pandemic, at least temporarily, was Record Store Day, the annual event aimed at boosting traffic at independent retailers. The 13th iteration was to take place on the third Saturday in April, with stores offering limited special releases and discounts.
Of course, that didn’t happen.
Instead, the RSD principals postponed the event until later in the year, dividing it into three smaller events, dubbed “drops.” The first of these events takes place Aug. 29, with the remaining two occurring Sept. 26 and Oct. 24.
Holt said the smaller events make sense for a number of reasons. Scheduling one big event could cause record collectors in harder-hit parts of the country to miss out if their stores are closed. Plus, allowing retailers and customers to spread out their purchases over three months will help greatly during these uncertain economic times, especially considering most of these stores lost months of in-person revenue during the lockdowns.
Other area retailers participating in the events are Vertigo Music in West Reading, Rite Round Records in Temple, CD Exchange in Mohnton and the Record Connection in Ephrata. A full list of participating retailers and specialty releases can be found at recordstoreday.com.
Holt has a plan to make sure the event is safe. During previous Record Store Days, lines of up to 100 people would frequently snake through the large store. This year, those consumers who plan to purchase RSD releases will line up outside the store; 10 of them will be allowed in the store at one time, and they will be asked to purchase their items and leave. That will allow other consumers to browse the racks without overcrowding the store.
“We’re trying to be careful and be able to offer to people this cool event,” he said, “but not put anyone in danger.”