Vintage Vinyl Is Big Business for Second-Hand Store in Manchester

Aug 8, 2017

The vinyl resurgence is thriving in New Hampshire.

Do a quick Google search, and you’ll find there are nearly two dozen music stores across the Granite State carrying new or used records.

Across the globe, vinyl LP sales spiked by 53 percent last year, reaching the format’s highest point in 25 years.

To find out what’s behind this renewed interest in records, Morning Edition host Rick Ganley paid a visit recently to Thrifty’s Second Hand Stuff in Manchester.

This goldmine for local vinyl collectors is tucked away in the back of a warehouse and, in keeping with its focus on all things nostalgia, deals exclusively in used records.

Co-founder Bruce Bennett is giving a tour of Thrifty’s Second Hand Stuff, and shows off a small stage display with life-size figures of Jake and Elwood Blues. It’s one of his treasures.

“My passion’s music, I’m a musician. Some people say they have a man cave? I have a man warehouse.”

There are drum kits and stacks of old audio gear. On one of the walls, there are autographed guitars from the likes of Eric Clapton, Frank Zappa and Kurt Cobain.

“How about this… a bargain warehouse slash rock-and-roll museum. You know, what’s old is new again. Nostalgia, vintage, collectables… so that’s how it came about.”

The store opened five years ago, and it’s evolved over time. Now, almost all of the store’s business is in music. More specifically, used vinyl.

Store Manager Chris Gleason looks out at rows of records that span the warehouse floor.

“Well, there are tens of thousands. We’re not really quite sure how many when you talk about titles. As far as actual pieces of vinyl, there’s well over 100,000.”

Thrifty’s Second Hand Stuff now bills itself as having New England’s largest collection of used vinyl.

“This obviously spans an incredible number of years. We’ve got 78s that go back to the '30s, so we’re talking 80 years. Everything from early hip-hop to picture discs.”

Gleason talks about what customers are typically looking for.

“You know, I think what they walk out with is primarily memories rekindled. They walk around and they see stuff that they grew up with or their friends had or somebody in their family had. Everybody leaves with a smile on their face. The vinyl revival has really propelled us along.“

Much has been made about the comeback of vinyl in the past few years, though record sales still account for a small percentage of revenue in the music industry. Still, the itch for collecting old vinyl seems to be growing- and it’s not just a trip back in time for baby boomers and Gen-X'ers.

Records on display at Thrifty's Second Hand Stuff in Manchester
Credit Michael Brindley / New Hampshire Public Radio

“I think about half our vinyl customers are under the age of 25, and they’re liking what they see. When I have a 15-year-old kid bring up “The Best of Buffalo Springfield” and Queen, or things like that, they know their stuff. They like it and they’re going to listen to it.”

Over in the next aisle, Chris Gendron of Manchester sifts through the new arrivals.

“The hunt is absolutely the best part for me. I’m here to look for Black Sabbath albums. I looked last week and they didn’t have any, but I’m here again to look.”

Gendron says he comes in about once a week, and has a collection that’s grown to about 300 records.

He says there’s nothing like an original pressing.

“If you find a Beatles’ ‘White Album’ that was an original copy, that’s certainly a big difference. There’s some satisfaction to finding original music in good condition that’s still playable to hear it as it was meant to be heard.”

While there are there the hardcore music lovers, Bruce Bennett, the store’s co-owner, says there are others who come in with some unusual requests.

“We had someone come in here say ‘I need 12 album covers all associated with cats.’ He had a cat room in his house and was making some kind of display on the wall. He had actually bought the frames and every album had to be cat themed. Ted Nugent’s ‘Cat Scratch Fever,’ or the soundtrack to ‘Cats.’ I can’t even think of half of them, but they found them.”

Now, Thrifty’s is looking into expanding.

Bennett says his plan is to start cataloging the records so he can sell them online.

He’s also looking into opening a satellite location, either in Manchester or Salem.

But he’s also tried to get creative when it comes to bringing records to where the customers are.

“Are you aware of the Thrifty’s Record Mobile? We took an old transit bus and painted it in a Thrifty’s theme and it’s filled with records when you walk inside you can shop vinyl. So now we can bring it to events,” Bennett said.

As I leave, I catch up with Chris Gendron, who hasn’t had any luck in his search for Black Sabbath.

But he’ll be back.

“There will be that one day, and it’ll be a good day. But that’s it. The hunt, the satisfaction of finding something you’re looking for.”

Looking for a place to buy records in New Hampshire? Here's what a Google Map search turned up: