My friend Mike C is a dedicated record collector. In the summer of 1995 he took me to A-1, a record shop in the East Village. I flipped through the stacks for about ten minutes, got tired, and started a conversation with a blond-haired kid standing near the counter. He was open and friendly, a rarity in boutique record shops where attitude reigns supreme.
About an hour later, Mike had gone through all of the crates, including the ones on the floor, and he came up with a copy of BDP’s second record for $2. Right then I knew I’d never be a beat junkie. I didn’t have the stamina or the drive.
I didn’t return to the store for close to a year and when I did the friendly guy was sitting behind the counter. His name was Jared Boxx and we became friends. Not long after that he joined two British guys, Steve and Rob, when they opened their own store–specializing in vintage soul, breakbeats and old school hip hop records. It was called The Sound Library.
Later still, Steve and Jared split and opened their own shop on 12th between A and B: Big City Records.
I collected records intensely when I was in my twenties but by 2000 or 2001 was on to other interests. I still went to see Jared who always hipped me to new music. He burned rare records to cd for me, then made MP3s as technology shifted. One day I asked him about a specific record and he said, “No, that isn’t for you.”
I was offended. How was he sure that I wouldn’t like it? Because that was Jared’s gift. He made it his business to know his customers’ tastes. So it was common to walk in the shop and find that he’d stashed away a record. “I thought you might like this.” Jared did this for all of his regulars, from the guys who spent their most of their paycheck each week on vinyl to hip hop producers like Q-Tip, Finesse, Primo, and the Beatnuts.
Jared is a humble man, not one to seek the spotlight. But he believed that music should be shared not hoarded and kept private. And the the store became an extension of his personality. It was a meeting place, a place of community. I’m pleased that I turned him on to a few records too, like when I found a bootleg De La Soul track that Pete Rock produced…
…Or when I lucked into four copies of the Lootpack’s debut EP buried in the stacks at Beat Street.
But times change and while people still buy records they do most of their shopping on-line. So when the rent went up, Big City decided to close it’s doors in town (an adjunct store in New Jersey will remain open).
They say goodbye tomorrow and the store will be missed. But instead of lamenting the end of an era I’d like to acknowledge what a great run Jared and Steve have enjoyed. The fellas at Big City touched many lives and that will not soon be forgotten.
If you are around, fall through and take one last look. Oh, and keep diggin’.