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Central Square Records in Seaside Shares the Passion

February 19, 2012 by Susan Vallee

I have a confession to make … Central Square Records in Seaside is one of my happy places. Hibiscus Cafe in Grayton Beach is a close second, but at Central Square I can sit, work (many a local use the shop as their “office” and the WIFI is free), have a cup of joe, listen to music I wouldn’t hear otherwise and talk to genuinely interesting people. Think of it as less shopping experience and more as taking yourself on a creative date.

It’s not a hipster hangout, you don’t feel old if you are over the age of 16 and they don’t sneer at you if you ask about a musician they don’t carry. Oh, and musicians seem to love the place too. Maybe it’s because owner Tom King and Manager Edward Jack are passionate about tunes.

Now, I know “passion” gets tossed around a lot – but this is the genuine deal. These guys aren’t in Seaside to run a shop; they are in Seaside to inspire. To show people how wonderful music can make you feel. To appreciate and help local musicians reach a broader audience.
That’s appreciated by people like me – who love great music but normally only tune into the radio or repeat the same tired CDs for months on end.

Members of the coalition of independent music stores, they participate each year in the National Record Store Day – helping expose local talent to a broader audience through the tie-ins and store promotions. And they carry limited pressed vinyl, which is great for collectors, and for parents who want to share a bit of history (and musical quality) with their kids.

They also seem to hire people who love the store as much as they do. Creative and interesting, this small crew never seems to mind when someone asks to listen to a CD or requests a guitar or amp on special order. A former employee, Jourdan Joly, moved to attend art school but has created a line of T-shirts that Tom is now selling. And they sell well.

In the 12 years I’ve lived here two of my favorite memories involve Central Square Records. The first was watching Little Freddie King blow it out in a live performance right beside the cash register. The crowd wasn’t even a few feet away from Little Freddie. The power and the emotion of his songs literally rocked people back on their heels. That was a good day.

Another great “gig” featured Shawn Mullins and Nicole Witt during the inaugural 30A Songwriters Festival. The two musicians answered questions from the crowd about the writing life and their personal songwriting experiences and tales. And then the two belted out melodies that I had only heard before on the radio. I tell you, the best speakers in the world don’t do justice to the gravely growl that is Mullins voice. And Witt was the perfect foil to that depth with her beautiful melodies and lyrics that came straight from her heart.

There’s just no topping that. And the artists were having fun too. They looked genuinely pleased at the authentic appreciation for their music and albums.

How do you cultivate an atmosphere like that?

Tom and Ed seemed equally impressed with the live shows, and it seems to be a facet of the store they most want to grow. Avid supporters of local musicians, they’ve expanded their space and schedule for live in-store perfomrances. Keep you eye on the SoWal Live Music Calendar for gigs.

But mainstays like the Jittery Joe’s Coffee, free WIFI and a place to sit and relax won’t go away. And the front porch still offers one of the best views of Seaside. If you’ve never been, do yourself a favor and sit for a while on the front porch, soak up the music and watch the activities of the town unfold below you. 

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Susan Vallee

Susan is a writer. 

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