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Clip: Jerry's Records welcomes new neighbors

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  • Carl Z.
    As record stores go out of business all over the western world, Jerry tried and failed to retire in 2006. Pittsburgh City Paper checked on on the new plans
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 28, 2006
      As record stores go out of business all over the western world, Jerry
      tried and failed to retire in 2006. Pittsburgh City Paper checked on
      on the new plans for Jerry's Records.


      Jerry's Records welcomes new neighbors


      "Not on my watch": Jerry Weber

      I never know what I'm going to find at Jerry's Records, but I know
      I'll always find Jerry Weber at the front counter, sorting through
      stacks of records. Surrounding him is a vast vinyl catacomb, a
      collector's paradise glutted with crates upon crates of good records
      for cheap. To fortify the store against the digital age and the threat
      it poses to small media outlets, Jerry has invited some new neighbors
      to share his space on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill. Heads Together
      Video is moving from across the street into what was once the
      country-music room, while Dave's Music Mine is opening a satellite
      branch in the old jazz room.

      Last week, I visited Jerry's to check out the rearrangements. It was
      the first time I'd ever left without a record in hand. I did, however,
      leave with a new understanding of laser-guided turntables, estate
      sales vs. eBay, holiday surf medleys on the Ventures Christmas album,
      and the ultimate truth about records: "It's a language that you

      How's the move been going?

      We're changing everything around and we wanna get the people in here
      by the first of the year. This is a big move for me. I'm doing it,
      basically, to survive. The rent and the utilities don't justify the
      space. There's so many places in here where people never ever look.
      I'm just moving out records and going vertical and taking a bunch of
      'em to the warehouses, but I'm keeping a lot of racks and other stuff.

      Why do you refer to the rearrangement as "Plan B"?

      Because I was trying to get out of business, y'know. I was trying to
      sell the place. This is Plan B. I told you how I've got a million
      records over at my house, right? Well, I would have went and sold 'em
      at the flea markets and semi-retired. But I'm used to the idea now
      that this is what I'm going to do forever.

      How are your new neighbors going to affect business?

      This is going to be called an "entertainment co-op." On paper, it
      looks real good. I get calls for CDs all the time. I get calls for
      things they're looking for that aren't on CD. So, if someone walks in
      here looking for something for mom or a reunion, we should be able to
      get it to them in one form or another once Dave['s Music Mine] is

      How many records have you found new homes for over the past 30 years?

      What I call it is "handling" records. I can't imagine anybody handling
      more records in their life than I have. I mean, looking through them
      to buy them, looking through them to price and clean them and put them
      out. I just handle records all the time. You ever see me reading the
      newspaper when you come in here?

      But you started out as a postman?

      For 15 years, I carried mail up in the projects over in Oakland. Yeah,
      I worked there and I had the store too, so I had to make a choice. I
      couldn't do both because the record business kept getting bigger and
      bigger and, you know, this is what I love. "Mailman" is a good job.
      Lot of money. Lot of benefits. ... I used to be an usher at Three
      Rivers Stadium. Everything has always been about people, so I guess
      that's what my gift is, if I have one. And I've got a photographic
      memory for album covers.

      Why do most people get rid of vinyl?

      People are convinced that records aren't worth anything. I get calls
      all the time and they say, "This is what I got," and when I tell them
      their records aren't really what I'm looking for, they say they'll
      just put them in a Dumpster. That's when I say, "Records in Dumpsters?
      Not on my watch."

      A guy got married once and his wife told him, "Either the records go
      or I'm not staying married." To this day, he regrets selling me those
      records. He comes back here trying to get 'em back. But, I think he
      got rid of her. I think she's not there no more. I said, "See. You
      should have kept your records. They're loyal."

      You're like a throughway between records and homes.

      I don't buy anything from anybody. No distributors. No nothing. I'm
      just like the clearinghouse or, like you say, the way-station. I call
      it a "big river of music" flowing through here. It flows in the door,
      it helps me, and it flows out. But, lately, it's been getting backed
      up. That's why I got all these damned records I'm hauling out of here.

      So, Pittsburgh actually has four rivers?

      You see, Western Pennsylvania is the home of the pack-rats. Our whole
      lives, we were always taught, "Don't throw nothing out, ever. You
      might need it someday." So, you'll get these people around here
      that'll fill up their cellar, then they'll fill up their extra room,
      then they'll fill up their attic, then they'll fill up their garage,
      then they'll put little buildings around their house and fill them up
      with stuff.

      What kind of records do you take home from the store?

      I don't take that much stuff home anymore because I really want to
      keep the good stuff out there. I don't really need that many records.
      I have two kids and, if I kick the bucket, what are they going to do
      with 'em all?

      That explains the "Don't Bury Jerry" t-shirts.

      In other words, buy vinyl. I get barraged. Like I said, "Do I really
      need a half-million records where I live?"

      You mentioned that more women have been digging through the crates lately.

      A lot more girls are buying vinyl, but I don't know why. I can't
      explain it. I was thinking, actually, of having a "ladies' night" up
      here. Like on a Wednesday or some quiet night. If I could afford to do
      that, I think it'd be great. But there would still probably be a lot
      of guys up here, even on ladies' night.

      What perks do your employees get?

      These guys, they hate me for it, but they know that they don't get to
      take home everything they want. Most of the people that work for me
      are my friends or relatives. That's why I almost never hire nobody.
      The way you work here is you start buying records here and
      bullshitting with me for about five years and, then, I'll ask if
      you'll work for records. Maybe, if there's any money around, you might
      get paid.

      Why buy, or work for, records?

      You pick up a record in here that's 30 years old and it's in good
      shape. You take it home and you like it, so you might keep it for
      another 30 years. It's something you have to take care of. It's like
      you form a covenant with it. "I'll take care of this record and it'll
      play for me."

      Does the same magic happen with new records?

      This is all about taking advantage of the music that's already out
      there and not worrying about the different stuff that's coming out.
      That'll take care of itself. It's just like, "Why neglect 50 good
      years of all this music?"

      How has your clientele changed over the years?

      Now, in the last five or six years, I'm fully convinced about
      one-third of the people that buy records off of me don't even listen
      to records. They're buying them to re-sell them on eBay. They just buy
      the same records over and over.

      Are the casual collectors turning into connoisseurs?

      Yeah, they're getting too finicky. They're forgetting that the purpose
      of the record is for you to put it on a turntable and listen to it.
      Not to put it in a vault. Not to exclude it from the "river of music."
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