25 E. State St., Doylestown, Pa., 18901
Goldmine reader Ken Thompson contacted us to put in a good word about Siren Records. Ken chatted with Siren’s owner, Blair Elliot, to complete this For the Record profile.
Siren’s mission is simple: “To provide the best products and service to our customers at the lowest prices possible. We take great pride in our company, our commitment to customer service and in the products we sell.” Sounds like a winner to us!
We love profiling record stores here in the pages of Goldmine. Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Editor Pat Prince at 212-292-0075, Ext. 12266, to nominate your favorite store to be the subject of a For the Record feature!
What was your first job?
Blair Elliot: My first “job” was interning at Chrysalis Records, and then at Rough Trade Records, in New York City during college.
What was the first record you ever bought?
BE: The first record that I remember buying myself was the first album by Boston shortly after it came out in 1976. I was 9 years old and was very taken with the spaceship on the cover. I purchased it here in Doylestown at a shop that no longer exists.
When did the idea of owning your own record store first occur to you?
BE: In the early ’80s, when I was getting into punk and post-punk, most of the record stores that catered to these genres were a bit of a ways away. Myself and a friend thought that there was enough of a fan base in our suburban area to support such a store. We were tired of driving into the major cities in order to find the latest imports and underground releases.
What is the history of your store?
BE: The above-mentioned friend and myself were familiar with a DJ in the area who had stockpiled thousands of records that he had never, or was no longer, using. We made a deal with him to put the records into this new shop on a consignment basis. As those records began to sell, we set up accounts with a few of the distributors that were specializing in more underground-type stuff. I remember Dutch East India being one of the first companies that we dealt with. After the business grew, we moved it into the center of our town, Doylestown, Pa., where it still resides today. Siren has operated out of three different spaces in town over the years.
What do you specialize in?
BE: Vinyl in all genres of music is definitely our specialty. We still sell a ton of CDs, however.
How has the music retail market changed over the years?
BE: The biggest change for us over the years has been that the average age of our customers has crept upward. Also, many of our customers have moved from collecting CDs to collecting vinyl.
Have you noticed a resurgence in vinyl record sales?
BE: Our vinyl sales have been surging for several years now. We’ve always done quite well with vinyl, but in the last few years, the customer base for vinyl has become more broad.
What does your store offer that few, if any, others do?
BE: Avant-garde jazz in-stores.
What changes has the store gone through over the years?
BE: We’ve moved a few times in order to create a better shopping environment. In a previous store, we incorporated a live performance space where we booked and promoted live acts from all around the country and world.
Who are some of your favorite customers from over the years, and why?
BE: I love our older customers (60 and older). They have incredible stories about seeing the artists we sell, live, back in the day — everything from seeing Louis Armstrong at a music fair in Lambertville, N.J., a John Coltrane-Thelonious Monk double bill in New York, to being at Woodstock, to seeing The Velvet Underground at a club in Philadelphia, and everything in between. A million great stories.
What was the biggest day the store ever had?
BE: One of our biggest days was a book signing with the producer Joe Boyd. Beforehand, he spoke to a packed house about working with Nick Drake, Pink Floyd, Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, etc.
Ever had anybody famous come in and shop at your store?
BE: Tom Waits, among others.
What is the future of record stores like yours?
BE: The future would appear to be bright, as CD sales don’t seem to be disappearing, and vinyl sales have been exploding.
What’s the rarest record you’ve ever had in your store?
BE: It’s difficult to remember the “rarest” record, but we recently had a sealed Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s” UHQR box.
What’s the strangest request you’ve ever gotten from a customer?
BE: One customer asked, “Who does that song ‘Hey Hey We’re The Monkees?’” Another customer tried to trade in two cans of refried beans.
What advice would you have for people who want to own a record store?
BE: Be obsessive about music and be very, very patient.
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