Records at the mall
Two divorces and a lot of years later, I’m in Chattanooga working at For the Record, a bright, eclectic store full of collectible vinyl, books, movies and rock-and-roll memorabilia. Mike and Gwen Bell, two serious music enthusiasts/entrepreneurs opened this little establishment in Northgate Mall three years ago. People stream in and out of the store buying and selling albums. Most leave with smiles on their faces after reminiscing about those years of freedom before adulthood and bills took over their lives.
“I love dealing with the public and people with great musical passions and helping them fulfill their collections,” says Mike Bell. “I got albums through my father who was in the cigarette machine and jukebox business. He would bring albums home and I never had to buy them when I was young.” Bell has worked various jobs during his 58 years, from a preacher to painter. He’s found a way to make a living doing two things that bring him much happiness: selling records and framing art.
For the Record’s walls are lined with framed LPs and singles. Each frame contains all the artwork that came with the record as well as the vinyl, turning each piece into in to a tasteful work of art. Every shelf in the store is packed with music memorabilia. Bell boasts, “We have the largest selection of new vinyl and posters in town, as well as a creative mixture of music and art.”
Gwen Bell was born and raised here. As a child, she had to make weekly pilgrimages to a little corner drug store, allowance in hand, to fuel her main passions. “Every week I would go down there and buy one record and one comic,” she says. “My first records were given to me. I remember listening to the Smothers Brothers and the Lennon Sisters’ album, Sad Movies Make Me Cry, when I was really young, but the first album I ever bought was The Diamonds with the song Little Darlin.”
She is constantly spinning the Beatles on the store turntable. Her favorite Beatle is George Harrison, and she can tell you all about the history, wives, and tragedies behind the Beatles and most other rock stars.
No fad at Chad’s
“Our store is all killer and no filler,” exclaims the lone employee at Chad’s Records. Known only as “John”, he is wiping down an LP as I enter the dimly lit store on Vine Street. Stacked and packed with records, the store is a trip back in time. Walls are adorned with rows of LPs representing the heyday of rock and roll, and a punk rock LP was spinning on the turntable.
Proprietor Chad Bledsoe has owned the store for 23 years and is just as in love with vinyl as he was as a child. “Since I was a little kid I’ve been into music of some kind,” he says. “When I was a teenager, I was into rhythmic music like disco and rock and pop. I’m a sucker for a good song, so I like artists like Journey and Rick Springfield and I’m equally interested in Prince, Rick James and The Gap Band. Then I got interested in classic rock during high school, especially Neil Young and The Doors.”
Searching through the stacks of vinyl in Chad’s, you’ll find a huge jazz collection, an even bigger rock assortment—and an assortment of the despised compact disc. John says, “We have reduced our CD collection by at least a third lately. Since we moved next door, we just don’t have the room and there is a lack of interest in them.”