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CLOSING UP SHOP
Lamenting the death of Record Hog
BY CAMILLE DODERO

The best record stores are kind of like living art installations, and Somerville’s Record Hog is one such place. Nestled on the ground level of a noble brownstone two blocks from Cambridge’s Porter Square, the secondhand shop is a slapdash composition of scratched spines, handmade rock posters, and dusty curios (including the requisite Elvis bust). It’s the kind of place where Artie Shaw albums mingle with Throbbing Gristle’s Greatest Hits, where three fuzzy felines flail around the floor, and where the price stickers plunked on merchandise sometimes seem arbitrary. " There’re some inconsistencies here, " admits owner Ina Purins, a recycled-music veteran who says she’s worked at " every record store this side of the river " over the past 20 years. " It depends on my mood — some days I’m more ruthless than others. For example, somebody might wonder why John Denver’s still $1.99 and, say, Aretha Franklin is a dollar. But I try to be careful who I diss. "

Unfortunately, places like this are an endangered species, and the five-year-old Record Hog is one of the dying specimens. Due to dwindling sales over the last two years, Purins will shutter the business in " two or three weekends " and shuffle it to a new location in Sterling, Massachusetts — a " sleepy " Western town that’s closer to her Lancaster home. But even though the name will follow the milk-crated wares, Purins doesn’t envision the new storehouse as a retail outlet. " We’re in an old cider mill in a cool building with artists and artisans, but it’s surrounded by apple orchards, " she says. " I don’t know if we’ll initially have the walk-in business. " Instead, she intends to sell her catalogue online: " If it weren’t for the Internet, my business probably wouldn’t survive. "

Of course, if it weren’t for the Internet (and CD burning), Purins would probably have a better walk-in business. " If you look around town, all the used stores are hurting, " says Robert Hart, proprietor of Davis Square’s Disc Diggers, a 17-year-old secondhand nook not too far from Record Hog. " I talk to everybody about what’s going on, and we’re all having the same problem: we were all dependent on college clientele, and it’s not there anymore. Now my in-store clientele is all over 30. Whether it’s downloading or CD burning, I don’t know — it’s probably a little of both. " Eight months ago, Hart also took his stock online, and already, Web purchases make up about one-third of Disc Diggers’s total revenue. Without the Internet presence, he says, " I wouldn’t be in business. "

As of last Sunday, Record Hog’s final move date still wasn’t settled. " I’ve been putting it off and putting it off, " Purins says. " But it’ll definitely be before February first — I don’t want to pay another month’s rent. "

Record Hog, located at 368 Beacon Street, in Somerville, is open Tuesday through Friday from " twoish " to " sixish, " and Saturday and Sunday from " noonish " to " sixish. " Call (617) 868-4647 or visit www.recordhog.com

Issue Date: January 9 - 16, 2003
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