When you walk into the brand new Wax Atlas Record and Stereo Exchange on 22 W. 25th St., it feels like you are being transported to another time and place, entirely separate from what happens outside. There is classic rock music playing in the background, and it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the hundreds of records, cassette tapes and books placed carefully throughout the store. Right now the display includes The Beatles, Ghostface Killah and Madonna, to name a few.
Andy Phillips, the owner, sits at the counter. Andy has always been an audiophile and a huge music nerd. He started buying and selling records on Craigslist on the side while working other jobs. About two years ago, however, he came across an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up. Somebody contacted him through Craigslist saying that he had a giant storage vault of records that he needed to sell quickly.
Andy says the vault contained tens of thousands of records, and he was able to get them at an extremely cheap price. It was then that he realized he had enough inventory to make his fledgling online business into something more substantial.
He continued to sell records online, trying to sell cheaper items that were less likely to get sold in a store. After the inventory was cleared enough, he felt ready to open a physical record store. Together with the help of some friends, Andy was able to set up the store on 25th Street.
The store is open from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. As of now, anyone can walk in and buy records. Andy plans on having the official opening day sometime in April.
Andy is passionate about records because he believes buying music allows people to showcase what is meaningful to them.
“You might go home and be able to listen to any new music you want on Spotify, and that’s incredible. But records and physical copies are a personal statement,” he said.
Andy wants his store to be a place where customers come in and find something they didn’t even realize they wanted.
“I want to be a store where rather than having everything in perfect order, every artist in perfect order, I like the idea of having a small section where everything that’s out there, when you come back two months later, almost all of it’s different,” he said.
Andy also plans on hosting local bands to perform. He says that everyone who works for him is a musician as well. He wants the store to also be a place where people can get to know the local talent.
“A lot of local bands hit me up immediately asking to perform after I advertised online, saying there are so few places that we can do this stuff in this city.”
Because the store is just a 10-minute walk from Homewood Campus, Andy is hoping to get Hopkins students more exposed to the local arts and music scene.
“It is incomprehensible to me that there are culturally savvy interested people a few blocks away who often don’t know about what is happening in the local arts scene,” he said.
Andy says that younger listeners like Hopkins students, who are often buying their first records, are some of his favorite customers.
“There’s nothing that’s more exciting to me then someone who has never bought records before. If you’ve just bought a record player I’m going to give you twice as good a deal then somebody who has been collecting for years because it is just so exciting,” he said.
Andy is also excited about the increasing diversity in the record collecting world.
“The amount of women who are collecting is really increasing. The record scene used to be really male dominated, and I’d say young women have actually been some of the biggest drivers of what I’ve been doing,” he said.
Andy believes there is value to listening to music in the format it was originally distributed in. For example, he says that even though records have better sound quality, he prefers to listen to certain genres like ‘80s hip hop on cassette tape.
“When the artist thought about writing the songs and mixing, they were thinking about cassettes. That doesn’t mean that the stuff doesn’t sound better on CD, but the intention was for it to be on cassette,” he explained.
Ultimately, Andy is eager to be a part of the arts and culture scene in Baltimore. He says one of the reasons he loves music so much is because it unites people. He hopes Wax Atlas can do this too.