By Meg DePanise
Amidst the bustling restaurants, antique furniture stores, quirky non-chain shops and small businesses that line Patrick Street is Rock & Roll Graveyard. The funky record store, located precisely at 115A E. Patrick St. in Frederick, Maryland, is undoubtedly a gem for the small town’s vibrant downtown scene.
The ‘A’ must refer to underground because the sign which hangs from the brownstone marks the shop’s entrance, just down a short set of steps under Princess Day Spa and Boutique. From just one look at the store, it’s clear that what the shop may lack in space, it makes up for in character.
With its bright purple, poster-covered walls lined with vinyl, Rock & Roll Graveyard’s cool and easy going atmosphere will transport its customers back to the days of hanging out in their friend’s basements flipping through records. The space, which is made up of two conjoining rooms, is deeper than it is wide and the memorabilia covered walls will launch a feeling of nostalgia. The low ceiling basement is surprisingly comfortable and the entrance room, lined with records, seems to beckon you to walk further into the store.
Chris Wolfe, the owner of Rock & Roll Graveyard, is welcoming and enthusiastic, eager to help customers find what they are searching for or make suggestions, and show new arrivals. He is also happy to share how he came to open the store two years ago. He has over a decade of experience working in record shops, he explained. “I used to work in a record store but I had lost that job so I made the decision that I was going to take my collection as the basis for starting my own place,” he said.
“My entire collection is about eight thousand,” Chris said proudly. He has over six thousand records in the store and two thousand more at home, he said. With each record sorted alphabetically in the wall to wall bins, it’s easy to become lost flipping through the albums, noticing the artwork, picking out known artists and wondering about the ones never heard of.
It won’t be long before you find your head bobbing in time with the music, which is always refreshingly unfamiliar. “That’s what’s great about being here, you never run out of new listening material,” he said. Listening to music that many people don’t even have access to is one of the reasons why he loves his job, Chris said.
He said the majority of the music in the store is rock, psych, punk, metal and rhythm and blues but there is a little bit of everything and he carries all genres from the 1960s to the present. Rock & Roll Graveyard sells 7 inch, 10 inch, and 12 inch vinyl, cassette tapes, 8-tracks, and CDs, as well as turntables, tape decks, and stereo equipment.
Chris said he is asked every once and awhile if he carries vintage video games and comic books but, he would rather “keep it simple and all about the music.” He said he has always had a passion for music and began his record collecting when he was only in middle school, an age when most are trying to fit in and keep up with the pop hits rather than delve into the music their parents used to listen to. Chris plays guitar and bass and Rock & Roll Graveyard also promotes local bands and music festivals.
The store that used to occupy the space, Chris said, was 6 Feet Under, also a record store. The real key to his success, he said is not trying to compete with stores that sell modern music. The majority of his collection is used although he does have some new releases.
“Every record store is different,” he said. “It’s not like just heading to Wal-Mart and picking up a CD.” He added that a record store is an important part of the community because our taste in music is a way of expressing ourselves and it can shape our identity in a big way.
Even though it may seem easier to go to iTunes, search a track, and click purchase, there is something special about being able to flip through records and CDs. “Being able to hold your music physically in your hand rather than just seeing the file on your computer or phone or tablet screen is a totally different experience,” Chris said. It’s not just building your music library, it’s getting to hold the album artwork and liner notes in your hands and leaving the store knowing that it’s just one of the limited number of records made.
As far as competition goes, he says there is none, as he has an agreement to trade music with The Record Exchange on Market Street in Frederick in a way to benefit both businesses. Most everything in Rock & Roll Graveyard is under $50. All the records are kept clean and in good condition and all the music in the store is priced below the suggested price, Chris said.
Rock & Roll Graveyard is open Tuesday from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
“It’s sort of like a library or maybe even a zoo,” he said. “It’s a place to explore and expand. You never know what you are going to stumble upon.” Like a library, a record store has the power to help you build the person that you want to become.
“Instead of a petting zoo, it’s a listening zoo,” Chris said smiling. “You never quite know what you might find.”