You might feel like you know New Hope and Lambertville. However, these river towns are full of surprises. Maybe you are already familiar with Lambertville’s antique shops, galleries, and historic buildings and New Hope’s bustling outside bars and riverside promenade. However, you may not know that the towns are jam-packed with one of the decade’s hottest items: vintage vinyl. Whether you are a casual or an avid vinyl collector or do not even own a turntable, vintage vinyl shopping offers a day’s worth of adventure.
The towns overflow with vinyl. “VINYL” appears on weathered wooden shop signs and easel chalkboards. It is stenciled on shop windows. But not all the vinyl is visible. It is tucked in bins beside vintage clothing, antiques, and collectibles. It is arranged in crates next to mid-century sound systems, behind stacks of rare books, and stored among rock and roll t-shirts. Vinyl spills onto the streets on days with low heat and humidity and plays in shops. Once you tune into the vinyl vibe in New Hope and Lambertville, it is hard not to notice how prolific vinyl is.
Wandering in and out of shops searching for vinyl is only the beginning of the adventure. Flipping through albums offers shoppers the pleasure of rediscovering old favorites, stumbling upon records their parents listened to, or finding amazing cover art. The bins are full of surprises. Some albums even contain original recordings only found on vinyl and not available on digital media.
The towns boast an abundance of vinyl shopping options. There is only one dedicated record shop, Sweet Repeat Records in New Hope. Owner Bill Mich says customers range from 4 to 92 years old in an average week. Across the river in Lambertville, Panoply Books’ owner Roland Boehm loosely categorizes customers into two demographics: people in their 50s and up who purchase albums they used to own and those in their 30s and under who buy albums their parents listened to.
Stasia Kauriga, of Love Saves the Day in New Hope, notes that younger customers also buy albums for cover art to decorate their rooms.
Many shops carry a wide selection of popular easy-to-find classic rock albums by artists like Credence Clearwater Revival. Other top-selling artists include the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, and Elvis.
The Den in New Hope offers a comprehensive selection of new and used vinyl, Japanese albums, and the shop owner’s personal label. Panoply Books specializes in jazz, and the three-story People’s Store features multiple vendors selling all genres, including rare 1980s alternative albums.
There are bins of unsorted $2 albums at vendors such as the Golden Nugget Flea Market in Lambertville and first pressings in pristine condition priced at $100 or more at New Hope Antiques & Design Center. New Hope and Lambertville cater to the needs of the casual listener and the serious audiophile, with many vendors carrying the full range of price points.
What makes vintage vinyl shopping in the towns unique is the shop owners’ strong sense of community and cooperation. Most shops are within walking distance; others are minutes away by car. Store owners embrace the idea that for small businesses to succeed, they need to work together. So, when Kauriga at Love Saves the Day does not have an album a customer wants, she calls John Young at the Den to see if he does. Terri Siegel at Terri’s Gifts similarly steers customers to neighboring shops.
Some regular customers, like Mark DeYoung, drive an hour to buy vinyl. He explains, “I was looking for an album for a lifelong friend who was going through a tough time. Bill (of Sweet Repeat Records) found the album and called me on the same day.”
Kauriga enthuses, “We are providing a great experience for people visiting town.”
She enjoys hearing why customers purchase specific albums.
“It makes me feel good,” she says. “I feel like the albums are going to the ‘right’ homes.”
Mich emphasizes, “The best part of owning a record store is listening to people’s reactions…when they come across an album…hearing a certain song, customers often remember events, trips, or concerts. They remember friends or family they were with. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time, they are happy memories.”
Chris Lovrinic, who provides curated vinyl collections to New Hope and Lambertville stores, recalls a customer reminiscing about sneaking out of her house at 14 to go to Woodstock.
“Her mom grounded her forever, but she had no regrets,” Lovrinic added.
Vintage vinyl shopping is a trip down memory lane, whether it is memories of owning and listening to an album or hearing your parents play a particular one. Half the joy of shopping is wandering through stores, knowing you will realize when you find the album that was waiting for you, ready for its new “right” home.
Chromium, 6220-B Lower York Road, New Hope
Dry Goods Vintage, 29 Bridge St., Lambertville
Golden Nugget Flea Market, 1850 River Road, Lambertville
Gotta Have It Vinyl, 12 N. Main St., Lambertville
Love Saves the Day, 1 S. Main St., New Hope
New Hope Antiques & Design Center, 6148 Lower York Road, New Hope
Night Bird Vintage, 12 W. Mechanic St., New Hope
Panoply Books, 48 North Union Street, Lambertville
PROP, 37 N. Main St., New Hope
Sweet Repeat Records, 115 S. Main St., New Hope
Terri’s Gifts, 132 S. Main St., New Hope
The Den, 31 W. Mechanic St., New Hope
The Great 202 Shop, 6154 Lower York Road, New Hope
The People’s Store, 28 N. Union St., Lambertville
Whatever’s Hot, 93 S. Main St., New Hope
Beth Zarret writes occasional columns about the people and places in her beloved towns of New Hope and Lambertville.