ASHTABULA — One day there was 1940s Swing music heard on the sidewalk coming from B-side Music.
Another day it was a rare Beatles track, and on another early Rap.
Like other independent record stores around the country, Ashtabula’s B-side Music is proud of its ‘indie’ identity.
The atmosphere is casual and friendly and the inventory is unique. Independent record stores have made a comeback over the last decade, simply by providing things big box stores can’t.
For B-side Music owner Andrew Oxley, owning an independent record store and being a record collector is a perfect situation. He knows what fellow collectors want and can usually supply it. Along with this he gets to deal directly with enough vinyl records and rare CDs to make his head spin.
And people from many miles away come to his business, especially Saturday, National Record Store Day. It’s a national celebration of small independent record stores that features what they have to offer.
“We are one of only four stores between Erie and Cleveland to be a part of National Record Store Day,” Oxley said. “We’ve had people come from as far away as Virginia, some from Erie and Cleveland, some Youngstown, one from Cincinnati, people from all over.”
National Record Store Day is in its seventh year, and the event now includes hundreds of stores in towns not only in the U.S., but also Canada, France and other nations. Its success is due to the resurgence of locally owned record stores that sell collectible vinyl records and early CDs as well as recent releases. The participating stores usually spotlight limited number pressings, exclusive releases and unique or rare package editions.
“I’ve been a collector for 20 years,” Oxley said. “I ran Slappy’s record store for nine years before opening B-side Music here. I realized I could actually give the area an actual old school full service record store. We’re a local alternative to big box stores.”
Oxley rents the space at 4117 Main Ave. and is more than satisfied with it. He opened his store in October 2011.
“We’re as local as it gets,” he said. “Being right on Main Avenue and selling the local musicians’ works and t-shirts and chocolates are all part of it.”
Oxley said B-side Music is customer friendly and he doesn’t mind ‘diggers,’ or people who spend lots of time digging through stacks of records.
“This what collectors do,” he said. “Here they can look for collectible specials, or dig through the junk bin, or scan the regular items, or whatever. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, they can order it and have it the same week.”
B-side has a strong special order clientele and Oxley said he has order delivery twice a week. He said it is cheaper and quicker than Internet ordering.
Oxley said the customer service in an independent record store like B-side Music is better than in big box stores just by necessity.
“They can’t provide the attention we can,” he said. “I’ll do the leg work to find what customers need. I stock my shelves according to what people want, not the warehouse mentality of big box stores. I try to constantly improve the stock.”
He said he varies the genres he stocks, not just country or rock but all kinds of music. He gets eight to10 new releases per week and posts them on his Facebook page.
Oxley said the main thing that impresses him about records is their timeless appeal.
“It’s a format that’s been around for 100 years,” he said. “If kept properly records maintain their playability and value. The cover art is real art. And unlike a download, you actually own a record. It’s yours to pass on to the next generation.”
B-side Music is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 992-5569. Visit www.facebook.com/bsidemusicstore.