Any business that stays open for over fifty years safely earns the status of being an institution. Any record store that stays in business for this long earns the status of hero. Nestled between Summit Ski & Sport and the Bow Tie Beacon Cinema along the store-lined Springfield Ave in Summit, New Jersey, Scotti’s Record Shop is exactly what comes to mind when you think about a neighborhood record shop. The store was opened by the Scotti family in 1956, and in 1981 Gary Scotti went to work full time for his dad after finishing college. He continues to run the store today.
If you’ve never heard of Scotti’s, the mere length of its existence may seem remarkable given the roller coaster economics of the music industry over the last few decades that have ultimately resulted in a complete decline of storefront record shops. It is certainly an accomplishment for any shop that managed to survive first the rise of Napster and illegal file sharing, and now the explosion of Amazon and streaming services like Spotify that have effectively laid waste to not just record stores, but many different types of businesses that thrive on customers coming in and looking around. Of course, Scotti’s has been far from untouched by all of this. During the CD boom in the 80’s and 90’s, Gary and his father watched their business expand to five locations around North Jersey. The stores thrived, selling “lots of Sony Discmans during the CD boom as an authorized Sony dealer” and even getting into the ticket business (pre-Internet of course) when they set up Ticketmaster and Ticketron machines in their stores. Gary fondly remembers the “lines around the block for tickets at all stores on a regular basis”.
Following Napster came iTunes and the iPod, which further killed off the CD and, as a result, retail business at music stores. “We had many difficult years with the Internet hurting all retail outlets, and we started closing stores as leases came up,” says Gary.
Eventually Scotti’s shut down stores in Madison, Morristown, Gillette, and Chester, leaving only the Summit location, which is what we are spotlighting in this edition of Vinyl Lives. But any store that stays open for as many years and through so much bullshit as Scotti’s must be tough – like Springsteen Jersey tough. The sign still says “Scotti’s Record Shops” even though there is only one now, serving as a reminder that there is a legacy here. Gary and his loyal employees have found ways to keep the store going strong, adapting to the times and embracing the resurgence of vinyl by centering the bulk of their inventory towards it.
“[We carry] about 50,000 albums both new and used out for sale as well as CD’s, DVD’s, t-shirts, turntables, and used stereo equipment. We buy all used product for cash and have witnessed a surge in business over the last 5 years, going strong right now,” says Gary.
The store has also managed to move online, selling their goods on Amazon, eBay and other sites. Not only that, but, like many other record stores featured in this column, Scotti’s maintains a vibrant cultural presence in the community by regularly bringing in bands from all over to play in-store shows, do autograph signings, and just hang out. On Record Store Day vinyl fans flock to the store, bringing to mind the ticket lines of the 90’s. So next time you’re in North Jersey, make it a point to stop by Scotti’s in Summit and help keep the legacy of this special place going strong. To give you more of an in-depth look at what the shop has going on these days, we asked Gary to drop some Scotti’s Record Shop facts on us.
What kind of music do you specialize in, and how much of your stock is new vs. used?
We have about 40,000 records out for sale both new and used ranging in price from $1.00 to $30.00, and we have thousands of records under $6.00 all in excellent condition. We also have about 10,000 new and used CD’s – our ratio is about 50/50 new and used – we also get most indie exclusive limited vinyl releases. We are an original Record Store Day outlet. We sell all genres of music including extensive hip-hop, jazz, soundtracks, soul and all rock ‘n roll.
What are some of your recent top sellers?
Recent top sellers include Tame Impala’s Currents, Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free, Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit And Thing, Sometimes I Just Sit, Mac Demarco’s Another One, Led Zeppelin reissues, Titus Andronicus’ Most Lamentable Tragedy.
Upcoming releases include The Arcs, Wilco, Chvrches, Black Crowes vinyl reissues, Yo La Tengo, Kendrick Lamar vinyl.
You’d be surprised but we sell a lot of…
We’re always surprised by the amount of hip-hop vinyl we sell and odd ball soundtracks.
Scotti’s Record Shops is located at 351 Springfield Ave in Summit, NJ. For more info check out scottisrecordshops.com.
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