It was two years ago that Andy Phillips stumbled upon what he dubs the “white whale” for vinyl collectors, a storage unit chock full of tens of thousands of records. Phillips had put up an ad on Craigslist as he was building up stock for his online record store (and formerly a blog under the same name), Wax Atlas.
A man responded to the ad, saying his father, who had owned a storage facility, passed away, and he was looking to offload a 15-by-20-foot unit full of vinyl, VHS tapes and other media.
“The urban legend that we all talk about, like, Oh, there’s a storage locker somewhere that’s filled with thousands of records that have been there forever… that’s what this was,” Phillips said.
It took months for Phillips, a longtime music blogger and collector, to sort through them all, but once he’d finished, he saw a unique opportunity for his business in selling bulk sets of used records. Those product packages—everything from vinyl sets and “starter packs” of electronic dance music, hip-hop, ’70s prog rock opera and other genres, listed online here—have helped to launch and sustain Wax Atlas for the last couple years.
But now, after selling in bulk to collectors across the world for years, most of that initial inventory has been offloaded, Phillips said. After re-upping with other large buys, he’s looking for more face time with customers here in Baltimore.
Enter 22 W. 25th Street, Wax Atlas’ new basement store in Charles Village.
It’s actually not totally new. Wax Atlas moved in in October, and ran a pop-up holiday shop there in December selling used vinyl, books and more. But Phillips said that drew a strong enough, positive local response that he’s now looking to make Wax Atlas a permanent fixture in the neighborhood for the foreseeable future.
“I want to be contributing locally more, because there’s nothing that breaks my heart more than us taking something that somebody on my block would have definitely wanted and sending it to [a collector in] Japan” or somewhere else far-flung,” Phillips said.
With a staff of five, he’s busy outfitting the space with new fixtures, magazine racks to showcase items and a permanent sales area, along with lots of storage space in the back.
His shop will also cater to local artists, with a section dedicated to Baltimore-made music, a board to showcase flyers for shows happening around the city and, potentially, space for small-scale shows and open mics. “We’ve got the space and we’re definitely planning to use it,” Phillips said.
Baltimore already has a number of excellent stores for vinyl enthusiasts and collectors, Phillips noted, nodding to Normal’s in Waverly, Celebrated Summer in Hampden, True Vine in Station North (opening TBD), Protean Records in Federal Hill and Sound Garden in Fells Point.
As a collector, he said he’s friends with many of those shops’ operators, and when he first opened Wax Atlas, he’d been hesitant to jump into the competitive environment. But he’s since found Wax Atlas can fill a niche in moving high volumes of vinyl in bulk, and finding gems in the stacks to sell individually, without undercutting anyone with low price tags.
With his own storefront, he wants to find homes for some of those gems here in Baltimore. He has no plans to scale back his online business of shipping records far and wide, but “rather than have the stuff sitting in the back, I want to be able to give the local community a real chance to take a look.”
Wax Atlas plans to hold an extended soft opening starting this Friday and ending March 31, with shop hours from Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
An official grand opening is set for sometime in April, Phillips said. More details and accompanying events will be announced in the coming weeks.
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