New Bedford’s Purchase Street Records Spinning Over to Pope’s Island
New Bedford’s famous record store is moving, giving it the chance to expand and offer more records and other merchandise in-shop.
Space inside the store and parking issues along Purchase Street have led to owner Roger Chouinard’s decision to take his shop out of downtown New Bedford.
“I’ve come into my own,” said Purchase Street Records owner Roger Chouinard. “I have customers drive from as far as Maine, Vermont, New York, New Jersey and it’s troublesome with it being so industrious down here. I just need to make it easier for the customer, more accessible so that they want to come back, and they’re not going, ‘Oh man, I really hope I find parking when I go to that record store.’”
After a five and a half year run at 767 Purchase Street in which it became one of the best-known record shops on the East Coast, Chouinard is moving his store to Pope’s Island, into the building formerly occupied by Newsbreak, which closed back in February after 17 years.
He said he will be keeping the Purchase Street Records name.
“I wanted to stay in New Bedford. I really like the town. I wanted to stay downtown,” Chouinard said. “But I feel like the new location isn't too far away. You can still grab a toy at CoJo’s Toy World, you can grab breakfast or lunch or dinner at any of these restaurants down here, and on the way out, you hit the record store.”
Bigger Will Be Better for Purchase Street Records
Chouinard said the new location will be five times the size of the current shop, which will allow him to have more product on hand and more records for buyers to thumb through when they visit.
“I probably have 8,000 records that nobody’s even looked at,” he said. He estimated that he has about 7,500 records in his current location.
“Here, I’m out of room,” he said. “Every day, there are new records that get released, new releases never been on vinyl before, new colors, and I am out of room. I have probably 6,500 records just at my house that need to find homes.”
That means a better chance that the record a shopper is looking for will be in the bins at Purchase Street Records, plus room for other merchandise that can’t fit into the current location.
“There’s probably going to be around 20,000 records at the new store,” he said. “We’ll probably have a little bit more t-shirts, maybe some local town shirts. I feel the spot where we’re going is a little bit more touristy, so we’ll have ‘Welcome to New Bedford’ shirts, concert shirts, concert posters.”
“I have a friend who has all original 1980s promo posters signed by guys that you’ll never get their autographs ever again, so we'll have a collection of that stuff,” Chouinard said. “It’s going to be more organized, it’s going to be more genre-esque. More ‘buyer-friendly’ is probably the best way to put it.”
The Other Side of Purchase Street Records’ Business
In addition to selling albums, Purchase Street Records also buys them. Chouinard said that portion of the business should pick up in the new location.
“I think with the new location, people will be more apt to sell records due to the fact that here (on Purchase Street), you can’t pull up here with 20 boxes of records, because then you’ve got to put money in the meter, look out for the meter maid,” he said. “This place is so small that 20 boxes when my basement is already overflowing – it’s just become the point where we need to expand, that’s all.”
What to Expect With the Move of Purchase Street Records
The store’s downtown New Bedford location will close at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 23, and Chouinard estimated it would take “three weeks, maybe four weeks” before he can open in the new spot on Pope's Island.
“I don’t want to open too soon,” he said. “I want this to be really rock and roll, I want this to look great, for everybody to come in and go, ‘I’m not going anywhere else.’”
In addition to keeping the name, Chouinard said he’ll also likely keep the same hours. He warned, though, that the new location will be a work in progress.
“We talked about a game plan already, and it’s not going to be 100 percent,” he said. “It’ll be at like 65 percent when we open, and it’ll probably be 10 years before we’re at 100 percent. No business runs perfectly, but we’re going to set up as best we can and learn as we go.”
How Purchase Street Records First Came to New Bedford
“I wanted to be a famous drummer and that didn’t pay, so I had to open up a record store to pay my bills,” Chouinard joked. “So I guess it still has to do with music, so it works.”
He said it was Craig Paiva, the owner of No Problemo, that suggested he open up a record shop and locate it on Purchase Street.
“Craig was just like, ‘Give it a shot, let’s give it a shot,’” Chouinard said. “So it’s all Craig’s fault.”
Chouinard said that having a music venue like The Vault next store helped drive business into his store, but that he’s suffered a bit since the venue permanently closed suddenly back in June.
“We worked hand-in-hand together. This place would be the clubhouse for everybody before the shows,” he said. “We’d have everyone from (Dokken and Lynch Mob guitarist) George Lynch to John 5 (Rob Zombie guitarist and formerly of Marilyn Manson) walk into the store. That magic just isn’t happening anymore.”
The Record-Selling Business Today
Chouinard said his biggest competition is the internet, as people looking for a specific record can just pull it up on their phone and order it. But he said that also takes away from the experience of thumbing through the records and finding something you didn’t even know you wanted.
“A lot of people like to not be bothered when they look at records,” he said. “They want to find things on their own, kind of like an Easter egg hunt.”
As the younger generation has discovered vinyl, Chouinard said he’s seen that’s not always just about the music.
“I think it’s more like a status thing. There are a lot of people that buy a record and then post a photo of it to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok,” he said. “It’s like having a photo with a famous person, ‘Look what i just got, a record that nobody else has.’ We call it breaking the internet. People like to break the internet and say, ‘Hey, I just bought this record.’”
Soon enough, they’ll have more than twice as many of those records to choose from at the new Purchase Street Records.