While live shows and local musicians are a huge part of a healthy music scene, so are neighborhood music shops.
Ask most Arkansans, and chances are good that, if they’re vinyl collectors, they’ll direct you to Arkansas Record & CD Exchange in North Little Rock.
Owner Bill Eginton has been at the helm of the store for over 30 years, and is grateful that vinyl is making a little more than a comeback after CDs and MP3s all but spelled certain death for audiophiles.
“There is a certain extra buzz about it, there are people looking for more records now. I’m glad that we’re here and I’m glad that there’s a store that fulfills those needs. Instead of people heading online … they’re actually looking for a record store to go to where they can look in person,” he says.
Upon entering the threshold you can easily get lost among the stacks, rows, and racks filled with perfectly packaged records, all pristinely organized. Those nostalgic for halcyon days will go bug-eyed over the huge assortment of posters, vintage toys, comic books, and more.
Reade Mitchell, the Exchange’s store manager, speaks the truth when he says, “We have thirty years plus of inventory … our inventory goes deep.”
Throughout the years the shop has garnered a pretty fierce following, which explains the presence of Third Man Record’s Rolling Record Store this past Saturday.
One of many unique ideas from the mind of Jack White, the Rolling Record Store has been a staple in the music scene since its debut at the annual South By Southwest music and arts festival in 2011. Every spring since then, the coolest school bus since Sir Paul’s hits the pavement for a serious road trip.
Tasked with planning the tour, Third Man Records’ Angelina Castillo explained that she chooses several anchor cities to plan the route through. This year’s slate included Indio, California, for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which White headlined, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference and Bookfair.
Which begs the question: how did Rock City make the bill?
Partly due to geography (Third Man Records calls Nashville home), but mostly thanks to those diehard fans of the Exchange. Castillo relied on Facebook suggestions to help guide the journey, querying audiophiles of their favorite local record havens.
She says, “It turns out [that] people love this place in Arkansas. All the people who come to this record store are so fiercely loyal, so, when I was looking for a spot in the city, I made sure to come here.”
After an email exchange with Castillo, Mitchell and Eginton prepped for the event, and were very impressed with the turnout. “We didn’t know what to expect,” Mitchell explains. “Nobody else does something like this, so it’s a one of a kind thing. Jack White and Third Man Records have done a great job of marketing the whole experience.”
This past Saturday, giddy fans began lining up before 11 a.m., when the Exchange opens, to get a glimpse of the iconic yellow vehicle, creating a snaking line of sweating patrons across the parking lot.
Castillo added heaps of praise on Eginton’s store. “I am bummed that this is our second to last stop on the tour. I have already blown all of my money everywhere else, and when I saw what [the Exchange] had, tears were running down my face … I just want to buy the place out.”
We Arkansans have all thought this before.
This isn’t the first time in recent weeks that the Exchange has created a buzz. For Record Store Day earlier this month, Bill and his team paired limited vinyl releases with an appearance by pop music legend Todd Rundgren. If you missed that epicness, don’t worry, Rolling Stone has a few snapshots for you.
Now is as good a time as ever to head out to the record haven. “I’m really thankful and blessed that people are interested in music. I wish my dad could see me now,” says Eginton. He’s also quick to thank his family and friends that have made the store home, his “A-team,” as he calls them.
Keep next year’s Record Store Day on your radar. Eginton swears he’ll get McCartney. Here’s to hoping, and if not, perhaps one day soon the Exchange will debut a stage fit for the former Beatle to rock out on.