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Where the Vinyl Lives On

Second-hand music store survives in increasingly digital world.

In an era where downloading, iPods, and MP3 files rule the music industry, few successful record stores thrive. Record and Tape Exchange, located in the heart of Fairfax, does just that.

A small independent record store first founded in 1976, Record and Tape Exchange houses hundreds of new and used CDs, vinyl albums, tapes and movies, all priced for much cheaper than those the competing chain stores. In 1988, the store moved into its permanent home in the Pickett Shopping Center on the corner of Main Street and Pickett Road in Fairfax.

Rich Sansbury, one of seven employees, has been working at the store for nearly 8-1/2 years.

“If I made more money, I’d stay here for my whole life,” Sansbury said.

All of the music and movies sold in the store are bought from local sellers who bring them in, or else off of Amazon.com, and are then inspected to make sure its quality is good enough to be sold. If the sound quality is poor or the record is scratched, the price is cheaper and the damage is labeled on each specific piece of merchandise.

“[We get] at least something every few hours, a lot of times, several collections within an hour,” said Sansbury, of things being brought in to be sold or traded.

The decline in popularity of vinyl records for some leads to a surplus in the sales of them at small locations like this one, making it a haven for those who still utilize the resources that vinyl records offer. Record and Tape Exchange sells some vinyl records for as low as one dollar, allowing shoppers to buy 20 albums for what would be the price of one CD at a major chain store. The people working there are also more personal, recognizing familiar visitors and appreciating the music for themselves.

“I’m a vinyl junkie, so when a record comes in I know, I’m not going to see again, a lot of times I’ll buy it for myself,” said Sansbury, of opportunities he takes while on the job at Record and Tape Exchange.

Employees at Record and Tape Exchange are helpful in finding obscure records, and offer to help buyers find what they are looking for. The music is organized alphabetically by genre and media type, such as vinyl, CDs or tapes. The music is then further organized in sections that are extremely specific such as precise subgenres of Jazz, soundtracks, and an entire shelf offering the work of local artists from the area

Katie Gatski, a resident of Springfield, often visits Record and Tape Exchange for its resources.

“I like looking through the records because it opens your mind up to new things you can see instead of having to think of something and download it,” Gatski said. “There’s a lot of live CDs and compilations [at the store] that I didn’t know existed and wouldn’t know to get unless I saw them there.”

The success of the store is somewhat surprising, looking at the vast popularity of downloading music compared to purchasing physical copies of CDs. Although the sales of CDs are predicted to decline in the next few years, Sansbury is optimistic about the future for the record industry.

“Honestly, I haven’t seen any decline,” he said. “I think the type of person we attract loves the actual media, and I think the CDs will be OK for the next five of six years. We get a lot of old school people.”