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Nuggets reflects on 40 years of spinning records

Nuggets, a record store in Kenmore Square, has remained relatively unchanged despite opening 40 years ago. While a small collection of Blu-Ray discs near the front door acknowledges the 21st century, most of the store’s floor space is still filled with boxes of records covering everything from classical opera to rock.

“People come in and they keep saying it looks like we’re in the time machine going back,” Nuggets owner Stuart Freedman said.

Nuggets began as three men selling records out of cardboard boxes in Harvard Square, Freedman said. Forty years ago, they pooled their money to open a storefront at 486 Commonwealth Ave. and hired Freedman — then a student at Northeastern University — to work for them. It was several years before the original proprietors were bought out and he became the sole owner.

Over the years, Nuggets has grown to encompass new music and video delivery technologies, all while still holding onto its records. Freedman said the store has stayed true to its roots through the era of downloading and streaming — something that had led to other used records stores closing.

“Fifteen, 20 years ago, [the other stores] went completely to CD because no one was buying vinyl, and all those stores have pretty much gone out of business,” Freedman said. “It made sense for [customers] to go just to CD 20 years ago, so a lot of people asked why we still carried records.”

Nuggets has also adapted to the internet with a website and an online store, although Freedman said it doesn’t see a lot of use.

“We’re more interested in selling through the store,” he said.

Customers certainly don’t seem to mind. On Sunday evening, around 10 people browsed the carefully organized collection. Some were looking for specific records, others for anything and everything. One man marveled at discovering a laserdisc copy of “Schindler’s List.”

Ed Bradley, 23, of Taunton, said he has been buying records at Nuggets for the past four to five years despite living 45 minutes south of Boston. For him, the store hasn’t changed at all, but its stability and consistency is not a problem for him.

“Everything’s in alphabetical order, everything’s organized,” Bradley said. “In this case, no change is good change.”

Andrea Zidel, who has worked at Nuggets for the past 12 years, said there had not been a lot of a transformation in the store since she began working there, although she did note an increase in college-aged customers.

Miguel Aburto, a senior at Berklee College of Music, stumbled upon Nuggets through “The Vinyl District” – an app consumers can use to discover new and interesting vinyl stores near them –  and said he would definitely return.

“It’s my first time, but I like it,” Aburto said. “I think it’s very complete, I think it has really good prices, and a lot of variety in everything – not only vinyls, but videos and CDs.”

While Nuggets sells a lot of different genres of music, its biggest hits are rock and jazz, Freedman said. He estimated about 40 percent of the floor space was devoted to rock, while the success of jazz depends more on availability.

“If we get a good jazz collection, we could do really well for a couple weeks with that because it’s a lot of new stuff,” Freedman said.

Zidel said the store has defaulted to promoting classic rock and jazz records because of how well they sell in the store.

“The kids definitely are mostly buying classic rock,” she said, referring to the college students who have started to show up more and more at the store when vinyl records started to regain popularity around a decade ago.

Though some modern artists have started releasing their music on records, it’s unlikely customers would find recently-released records at Nuggets. While Freedman said he will take fresh records if someone brings them in to trade, he generally tries to stay away from buying them in favor of maintaining the store’s second-hand appeal.

Ryan Hopping, 33, of Somerville, has been a regular customer at Nuggets for the past decade. He said that even though records can be bought online, brick-and-mortar record stores like Nuggets can build or break record collections.

“You come to record stores like this to start a record collection and also to finish discographies for certain bands,” Hopping said. “If you have nine out of 10 albums [from] a certain band, it’s more likely you’re going to find that 10th one in a record store [for] a really good price.”

Raymond Zhao, a sophomore at Boston University, said he originally came to Nuggets to begin his record collection after coming across his own record player. Zhao said the physical presence of vinyls and record stores are vital, especially because of how impermanent music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music are.

“I am buying this record today, I will remember the day that I bought it and I got interviewed each time I take it out of the shelf,” he said. “The memory, it’s like a story.”

 

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