The Internet has become the mortal enemy of brick-and-mortar record stores. Average music buyers commonly see no reason to drive to an actual store when online music sites can provide them with instant and usually less-expensive gratification.
After witnessing the collapse of once-successful Tower Records and the steady decline of other previously thriving music stores (count your days, Wherehouse), Dirk Lemmenes and Jeff Bellew still went ahead and purchased a punk/hardcore/indie record store when it was put up for sale. What the hell were they thinking?
"We're not stupid," Bellew explains of the duo's decision to buy Greene Records. "We know there's a risk involved." Bellew, who worked at Tower Records for 17 years, adds with a laugh, "Besides, I don't know how to do anything else."
Lemmenes chimes in, "We know we're not the only two guys around who like to buy records and support bands."
Bands like to support Greene Records, too. To celebrate the shop's new ownership, MxPx played a free in-store show. Fans who couldn't cram inside to see the band flooded the sidewalk, and soon, tiny Ponderosa Street was swarming with people.
Greene Records itself looks like a typical alternative record store, which, sadly, is now an endangered species of retail. The square room is painted dark gray, and the walls are lined with neatly folded T-shirts and vinyl records. There's a glass case up front that doubles as cash register counter, one side of it plastered with Subhumans and Bad Religion stickers.
"Greene Records has always been a punk/metal/indie store," says Bellew, "but we're trying to expand the indie aspect, especially on vinyl."
Greene's remarkable selection of vinyl records remains its focus."People's tastes are much wider when it comes to vinyl," continues Bellew. "All bets are off. Kids will come in and end up buying '80s, country, old crooners, Rolling Stones, Hawaiian drum chants. It really goes across the board."
"People want certain albums in their collection; half the time, it's because of the cover," adds Lemmenes. "Like the first Adolescents or Misfits or Suicidal Tendencies—[record collectors] almost feel obligated to have them in their collection."
When asked about the competition of online music sites, Lemmenes admits, "Obviously, it's affected CD sales overall, but mostly in the mainstream area. It hasn't quite gotten to underground and indie music. Also, in terms of collectibility, the artwork is so important."
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"I mean, I have a thousand albums on my iPod, but I wouldn't call it a record collection," Bellew says. "The element of supporting bands is still important to some kids."
Being a small store, Greene Records has a necessarily limited stock. However, if a release is out there, Bellew and Lemmenes will do everything they can to get it. Greene's special orders have an impressive turnaround time of one week.
"We realize we're just getting started," says Bellew. "With the rare and hard-to-find vinyl being our focal point, we want the store to become somewhat of a destination. Besides," he says with a smile, "there are worse fates than hanging out in a record store with your best friend all day."
GREENE RECORDS, 13962 PONDEROSA ST., SANTA ANA, (714) 953-7440; WWW.MYSPACE.COM/GREENERECORDS .