Before iTunes and mass-market retailers, music lovers would visit small record stores to purchase albums.
As music became more and more accessible — to the point that it was no longer tangible — the mom and pop record stores have become few and far between.
That is until 2007, when a gathering of independent record store owners and employees decided to celebrate the nearly 1,000 independently-owned record stores in the country, thus creating Record Store Day, which is April 19.
"It reinforces what we already do year-round," said Ed Jack, manager at Central Square Records in Seaside. "We provide a unique experience for our customers by helping them cultivate a music taste — dig a little deeper. Someone might come in looking for Jimmy Buffett, so we'll tell them about similar musicians. Some of our local customers are always returning to pick our brains, which is really cool."
With the exception of a few shops in Pensacola, Central Square is one of the only independent music stores in the area, owned by husband and wife entrepreneurs, Jenny and Tom King, who actually met in Seaside.
"Tom and I started the store in 2003, right as the iPod revolution was just taking hold," said Jack. "It was challenging. We didn't know if we would fall flat on our faces. We just stuck by having a good time and a good attitude."
When the store first opened, there was but one crate of records on a counter. Today, the store has two full rooms of vinyl ranging from vintage finds to new releases.
Jack himself said he just barely got a taste of vinyl as an adolescent frequenting Variety Records in Columbia, Tenn. where he grew up.
"There was an old lady there who was the cultivator," he said. "I would get in to the 45s. Then, after the mid-80s, when CDs became popular, there was a sound shop in the mall."
Central Square has participated in Record Store Day, now in its sixth year, since the beginning. From its inception, Record Store Day has received backing from musicians and music companies — big and small. Each year, a musician is chosen as the ambassador. In 2013, it was Jack White, now a solo artist, but previously of The White Stripes. This year, Chuck D, of the rap group Public Enemy, serves the noble role.
The day features all kinds of special releases from hundreds of artists. From the well-known Allman Brothers, David Bowie and Devo to the independent artists such as Man Man, Built to Spill and The Flaming Lips, Record Store Day has something for everyone. In addition to music, specialty items such as a Peanuts-themed portable turntable by Crosley will be available.
Central Square even sells some of its own loot with special trucker hats that will be available first come first serve.
"It's neat to see how exponentially it has grown," said Jack. "Every year, it's like setting up for Christmas."
The exciting part of the day is that stores can place orders for releases, but they're not guaranteed to get everything because only so many records are pressed.
"The records will usually have special packaging or an unreleased song. It's something unique to have that your friends can't get," Jack said. "We have people lined up in front of the door as early as 5:30 a.m. Hey, it's not a bad gulf view and we always have coffee and doughnuts ready for those hardcore fans."
As Record Store Day continues to grow in popularity, so does Central Square.
"The crowds get bigger every year," said Jack. "We have people come in from all over the region. We also see our locals, so it's like a reunion of sorts. We know a lot of our customers not by name, but certainly by style."
While Jack saw vinyl slowly enter the abyss, he now gets to play a part in its revival.
"About 85 percent of the sales we make are strictly vinyl," he said. "Record Store Day is the perfect day to celebrate what we do. It's really special."
WANT TO GO? Head to Central Square Records, 89 Central Square in Seaside, early for first dibs on limited-releases and swag. The doors open at 8 a.m. For more information on Record Store Day, www.recordstoreday.com.