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Record Store Review: Hold Fast (Asbury Park, NJ)

July 3, 2013

Hold Fast (20)When you find yourself in a desert, you desperately hope to come across an oasis. When you find yourself on the Jersey Shore, if you’re anything like me, you desperately hope to come across a halfway decent record store. And just like a desert oasis has no business being a Garden of Eden, Hold Fast (in Asbury Park, New Jersey) has no business being the wonderful store that it is.

Asbury Park (made famous by Bruce Springsteen) has been undergoing a renaissance of late. Once an attractive place to visit, back when landmark amusement park Palace Amusements was a popular family destination, the town was in a state of deterioration culminating in the unceremonious tear-down of Palace in 2004. Perhaps it was reaching that rock bottom level which spurred the locals to rebuild, but whatever it was, Asbury Park is now once again home to nice beaches, restaurants, shops and music venues (like the legendary Stone Pony and Wonder Bar). One Asbury native – a fixture of the local music scene in the past two decades – saw what was going on and spent his spare time opening up a tiny record shop, taking the apartment above the store and living the cliched shop-owner dream. That store on Corlies Ave – with its music lessons in the basement and genuinely hip clothing to fill some of the empty space – gained a following in its five-year existence as the owner, Joe, poured his blood, sweat and tears into his labor of love.

Hold Fast (14)Joe wakes up at ungodly hours to track down record collections in far-flung places, all for what he considers a hobby to his main gig (running the stage for local concert venues, including the new Stone Pony Summer Stage). The hours he puts in – and his encyclopaedic knowledge of rock, punk and hardcore music – are reflected in the titles available for sale at Hold Fast. Naturally, being the only game in town, there is ample quantity of rock standbys which actually are the bulk of the store’s inventory. And of course there is an entire library of Springsteen vinyl. Hold Fast (16)The magic of Hold Fast is in the “New Arrivals” and “Punk/Hardcore” sections, where choice vinyl comes and goes in a flash. No matter though – Joe will be back on the road restocking those sections with more rare pieces in no time. In addition to offering a great eclectic selection, Hold Fast’s prices cannot be beat. Joe considers it a personal offense to rip off his customers the way some NYC stores do.

As Hold Fast has continued to grow in popularity, it outgrew its old space and moved to a larger store just up the block, still on Corlies Ave. With the new location, Joe has been able to stock jazz records, cassettes, a listening station, and of course more vinyl than ever before. Whenever I am in town (which sadly isn’t often enough) I stop in to the new store and shoot the sh*t with Joe, who is always offering to play me an album he thinks I’ll enjoy based on past purchases, or telling me a story about a record hunt, or better yet, an encounter with a down-to-earth musician. There are some really great record stores in NYC and Brooklyn, but very few where I feel comfortable just hanging out. Hold Fast is a throwback to the days of the old independent record stores.

Hold Fast (2)Bottom line: If you’re anywhere near Asbury Park and you don’t visit Hold Fast, you’re making a mistake. The punk/hardcore section is small but is the lifeblood of the store, so it’s as good as you’ll find anywhere. Don’t be dismayed if you don’t find what you’re looking for; this is a place to be pleasantly surprised, not to seek specific titles.

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Quick stats:

  • Sells used, new, or both: Both (though 90% or more is used)
  • Genres: Rock, Punk/Hardcore, Jazz
  • Non-vinyl for sale: Clothing, a small number of CDs & cassettes, music memorabilia
  • Selection: 7 out of 10
  • Price: 10 out of 10
  • Atmosphere: 10 out of 10
  • Ease of browsing/shopping: 9 out of 10
  • Used vinyl condition: 8 out of 10
  • Yelp rating: 4.5 stars

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