December 15, 2011

Do you like this?

There’s a certain sort of romanticism one expects from record-store owners. We expect John Cusack and his duo of lovable flunkies arguing the merits of obscure rock bands while delineating the crimes against music perpetrated by modern pop masters gone awry.

At For The Record, you will not find this quirky quality, at least not in owner Mike Bell. But that’s perhaps because Bell and his store exist in almost a parallel universe, something you’re unlikely to fine anywhere in modern-day America: A record store. In a mall. In 2011. And doing quite well.

Bell and his wife, Gwen (who, Mike says, holds the passion for records he does not) opened their record and memorabilia shop three years ago as a kiosk in front of JCPenney at Northgate Mall and had been selling arts and crafts at the mall during the holiday season at the mall for the past 10 years.

For the past two years, For The Record has occupied the former Waldenbooks location on the south end of the mall, where the store has slowly expanded as the Bells have added merchandise, moving back the fake wall each year to accommodate a growing stock.

But opening an actual record store was not originally the plan, Bell says.

About eight months into his kiosk business, Bell noticed “five guys in suits” surveying the mish-mash of kiosks fronting the anchor store and the news came down from mall management that Bell had to vacate his prime location.

“But my step-daughter had a dream that we’d move to a new location and it would be called For The Record,” says Bell, and that dream came true.

Today, For The Record is filled with boxes of old vinyl, a small but worthy collection of new records, banks of stereo equipment for sale, alongside the popular album covers he mats and frames himself and a variety of music- and movie-related books, tapes, T-shirts, posters and memorabilia. As one customer remarked to Bell recently, “You’ve turned into the record store I remember.”

Indeed, For The Record does have all the contents (if not the slick retail panache) of the classic Record Bar, which operated for years in the mall. If he’s not a true fan, Bell deserves credit for at least restoring a hint of hope and more than a little nostalgia to the mall.

And yes, you can probably find a copy of “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” It is, after all, the mall.

Mike Bell

Owner, For The Record, Northgate Mall

Favorite album: Just One Night, Eric Clapton (1980)

Best-selling framed album covers: Street Survivors, Lynyrd Skynyrd (original flame version); Purple Rain, Prince

Most valuable record in collection: “Please Please Me” 45rpm, 1963 (Parolophone), with The Beatles misspelled as “The Beattles.” Paid: $1. Value: $1,500


December 15, 2011

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