Rough Trade NYC: The vinyl countdown

The iconic shop has opened in the heart of hipster Brooklyn. Joe Minihane takes a spin

"Brooklyn's like a petri dish, it allows us to experiment." Sitting atop a reclaimed shipping container, the smell of fresh paint lingering in the air and a mural of the Velvet Underground gazing down upon us, it's hard to refute Stephen Godfroy's claim. Godfroy is the manager of Rough Trade NYC, the iconic shop's new US outpost and a spot unlike any other in this music-obsessed borough.

In a world of digital downloads and streaming services, Brooklyn, and in particular the neighbourhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, has become a go-to destination for traditional record stores. Hardcore vinyl fanatics mix with hip tourists searching out new tunes and affordable vintage classics. It's in sharp contrast to the other side of the East River in Manhattan: stores such as Bleecker Bob's Records in Greenwich Village, where Bob Dylan once shopped, are falling off the map as rocketing rents push them out of business.

Rough Trade NYC opened its doors on Monday. It was four years in the planning and stalled by Superstorm Sandy, which swept through New York a year ago. It occupies a former HBO prop warehouse. Co-owner Godfroy hopes the vast space will become as much of a destination as Rough Trade East, the Brick Lane institution that opened in London in 2007.

"I hope this store will achieve a lot on a local level and become a neighbourhood favourite," he says, scanning the 15,000sq ft room as punters flick through crates of fresh new vinyl. "We're humbled to be here. There are some fantastic record stores nearby. It's a vibrant community and hopefully we can provide a leg up for other shops."

After spending an hour scanning the racks and nattering with the staff about buying too much vinyl, I leave the imposing, post-industrial confines of Rough Trade and head out on to the streets of Williamsburg. Bracing myself against a bitter wind blowing in from the East River, I go in search of the vibrant record shops that Godfroy is so enthused about.

Striding deeper into Williamsburg, I drop into Earwax Records, just a few blocks east of Rough Trade. It sits on a pretty side street, having just moved around the corner from its former, long-standing location on ultra-trendy Bedford Avenue. Metal blares out from hidden speakers while committed vinyl fans, togged up against the cold, browse through crates of new and used LPs. Pricey, limited-edition box sets line the walls.

It's intimate and very different from the bold, brutalist designs of Rough Trade. Earwax has been in Brooklyn for 22 years, long before the borough became the epicentre of hipsterdom and a focal point for the world's best new indie music. The staff are equally enthusiastic here about the community aspect of the area's record shops.

The mood is similarly ebullient a 10-minute walk north, in the increasingly hip 'hood of Greenpoint. Permanent Records is a tidy little store with an incredible selection of jazz and soul vinyl, plus seemingly endless racks of second-hand CDs. I get chatting with the manager, Matthew "Milli" Milligan. "There's definitely not competition between any of the record stores around here," he tells me as he prices up a huge pile of vintage LPs. "In the last year or so, a couple of other shops have opened up in the immediate vicinity and now it's starting to feel like more of a scene. We're always referring people to other shops. People are asking 'where can I go?' and we say 'check out Academy, check out Co-Op'. That's how it is around here."

After Hoovering up a few vinyl reissues that I've not been able to track down back in London, I follow Milli's tips and press on, first to Academy Annex. This high-ceilinged cathedral to used records has recently made the move to Greenpoint after years in Williamsburg. But it retains its hard-earned reputation as a crate-diggers' hotspot. Row after row of carefully sourced vinyl is quietly rifled through by dedicated shoppers. Each box is broken down into specific genres that only fanatical music fans could dream up: chillwave, Japanese psych and French pop are all catered for.

It's Milli's final tip though, that leads me to record-buying nirvana. Co-Op 87, tucked down a quiet residential street, stands out immediately. Plastic boxes, stuffed tight with battered 12-inches, are stacked up outside, loose leaves whipping between them as I ease open the heavy door and adjust my eyes to the gloom inside.

The place is chock full of vinyl, so much that it's hard to know where to start looking. I make a beeline for the used rock and pop section. Everything from original Led Zeppelin pressings to reissued EPs by local favourites Real Estate are up for grabs.

I wander back to Permanent to thank Milli for the tip off. "That's what makes the scene here so great," he says. "We all have our own kind of thing and that makes it worth trying out lots of different places."

Travel essentials

Getting there

Joe Minihane travelled as a guest of Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 7777; virgin-atlantic.com) which flies four times a day from Heathrow to JFK and twice a day to Newark.

Shopping there

Rough Trade NYC, 64 North 9th Street, Williamsburg (roughtrade.com).

Earwax Records, 167 North 9th Street, Williamsburg (001 718 486 3771).

Permanent Records, 181 Franklin Street, Greenpoint (001 718 383 4083; permanentrecords.info).

Academy Records Annex, 83 Oak Street, Greenpoint (001 718 218 8200).

Co-op 87, 87 Guernsey Street, Greenpoint (001 347 463 9997).

More information

nycgo.com

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    ICE ICT: Lead Business Consultant

    £39,000: ICE ICT: Specific and detailed knowledge and experience of travel sys...

    Day In a Page

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water