After five long months, owner Clay Scales and the staff of the independent record store 52.5 Records have finally opened the glass doors at their new red brick location on upper King Street — and just in time. With only Millennium Music in operation, things were starting to get a bit lonely for some downtown shoppers.
For many Charleston-based and visiting vinyl enthusiasts, CD collectors, and music fans, 52.5 Records has consistently demonstrated and provided the kind of pro-customer attitude and service that can't easily be found in the typically indifferent chain stores. For casual buyers, just having an additional store to drop into from time to time has been valuable as well.
The old-school "indie record shop" atmosphere is not something a big box store like Target or WalMart can easily emulate — neither is the hands-on customer connection from a staffer who knows the difference between The Fall and Fall Out Boy. With a roomier, refurbished store in a thriving commercial strip of downtown, the 52.5 staff seem ready to bounce back into action.
Scales, 43, got his start in the music shop biz in Statesboro, Ga., as a teen working at a local record store as his first job. He relocated to Charleston in 1989 from Columbia, S.C., where he was managing a Record Bar. After a few years at the former local shop Manifest Records, he opened 52.5 Records at 52 1/2 Wentworth Street in 1997. Local blues musician Gary "Shrimp City Slim" Erwin had previously run his own little record shop, Erwin Music, at the location.
"I loved that little store," Scales remembers. "We came into it when ska was in its insurgence. We could have the biggest ska section in town and still not fill us up. It was an easy specialty for us ... and it paid the rent in those early years."
In 2000, the shop moved down the block to its previous location at 75 Wentworth Street — a roomier setting, for sure, but still a bit cramped. They kept the bins stocked with a wide variety of indie rock releases, imports, jazz, hardcore, punk, metal, electronic, and ska. Their goal was "to provide a good selection of music, focusing on artists outside of the commercial mainstream," as stated on their website manifesto.
52.5 offered more than CDs and used vinyl; they played a vital role in the local music scene as well, providing clubs and bands with a room-sized kiosk for their flyers, show announcements, and "musicians wanted" posters, and serving as a casual meeting place for musicians, and they stock and sell local releases (a valuable service Millennium Music, Cat's Music, and Monster Movies & Music have provided the local scene as well).
Last weekend, 52.5 celebrated the start of a new era downtown at 561 King Street with a "grand opening" show featuring live performances on the "stage rug" from local trio A Decent Animal, rock acts Misery Index and Fuck the Facts, and improv act Gravel Trio.
"We definitely wave the flag of independence," says Scales. "To me, it's maybe the love of money versus the love of music."
52.5 Records is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 1-6 p.m. For more info call 722-3525, or go online to www.corporaterocksucks.com and www.myspace.com/plate_of_shrimp.