Record Store Review: Fifth Avenue Record & Tape Center
Once upon a time I stumbled upon a record store that purported to be an old-school neighborhood record shop, humbly getting by in Greenwich Village among far better known mainstays like Bleecker Bob’s and Generation Records. That store was named, appropriately enough, House of Oldies. Excitedly I checked out what I hoped to be a hidden gem. I spent about 15 minutes or so in House of Oldies, during which I saw the large but difficult-to-browse selection, noted the god-awful (maybe even criminal) prices, and was treated rudely by the demeaning owner (Bob). You may recall my review the next day, which ended with these words: “And with that, I got the hell out of Bob’s store, never to return.”
As it turns out, that friendly old-school neighborhood record shop does still exist – you just have to take the F train all the way to Park Slope to find it. I’m talking about Fifth Avenue Record & Tapes, which opened back in 1965 (yes, it pre-dates and outlasted Bleecker Bob’s), moved to its present location in 1971, and by all appearances has not been updated at all in the 42 years since. In all that time it has been owned by the same Brooklyn native, Tony Mignone, who really knows his music and has kept his store in business despite several closing scares, one widely reported in 2009 (when Mignone’s lease was up), and another last year when Mignone quietly closed for a spell due to health issues.
The store is small, and is often correctly described as dusty, ancient, and cramped. It is laid out as a perfect rectangle, with an island in the middle featuring back to back racks of music (CDs on the left, used rock records on the right). A narrow walkway surrounds this island, with records (non-rock and new vinyl) and cassettes facing the rock records, and more CDs and the cashier’s area facing the CDs. If another shopper is in the store, I advise you to walk these aisles at your own risk; Record & Tape Center is a one-lane street with two-way traffic. At any moment you feel like the walls – bursting with VHS tapes and 8-tracks and any other kind of media that has piled up over 40 plus years – might come crashing down on you. (“Tonight on Fox News, a man found dead under a pile of Moody Blues’ 8-tracks. Story at 11.”) But if you have the time and patience to browse under these conditions, there is a fairly decent amount of stock here to keep you occupied and you’re likely to find a record or two (or more) worth purchasing, especially if you’re trying to rebuild an old vinyl collection or fill in your existing collection with some of the basics. Put differently, if I wanted any basic record from an artist like the Who, the Doobie Brothers, Clapton, the Band … this is a great place to find it at a reasonable price and in good condition.
In all honesty, I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit this store. But as a Brooklyn-ite, I’m glad it is here, for however long it remains (Mignone is now 74 years old and lives in Long Island; I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t renew his lease the next time it is up). On days when I find myself on Fifth Avenue and with sufficient time to spare, I like to stop in and browse, especially the discount crates often found outside the store. I find that the annual Park Slope Fifth Avenue Fair is a perfect time to visit the Record & Tape Center, when strolling through the area in a bargain/used shopping mindset. In fact, I did that just last Sunday, when I ducked in to get out of the rain and wound up picking up five albums for $12 and another four CDs at a ridiculous $0.25 apiece. The albums were nothing special – they included Early Steppenwolf, Get the Knack and This is the Moody Blues – but they are good basic additions to my collection at a very fair price.
Bottom line: A convenient Park Slope location for your basic used vinyl (mostly classic rock) needs. No more, no less. Don’t even think of buying anything new here – you’ll find it cheaper within easy walking distance at Music Matters.
- Sells used, new, or both: Both (90%+ Used)
- Genres: 50% Classic Rock, 50% everything else
- Non-vinyl for sale: CDs, Cassettes, VHS Tapes, 8-tracks
- Selection: 6 out of 10
- Price: 8 out of 10 (Used Vinyl); 1 out of 10 (New Vinyl)
- Atmosphere: 3 out of 10
- Ease of browsing/shopping: 3 out of 10
- Used vinyl condition: 7 out of 10
- Yelp rating: 4 stars