It's been half a century, and Merle's Record Store has proven itself to be a survivor.
On Saturday, the record store on Racebrook Road that predates the Beatles will celebrate the milestone with a lineup of local bands like the Rum Runners and promotions including $10 off any $25 purchase.
In a time when many record stores have fallen by the wayside, Merle's has done the opposite. It's become a destination for audio aficionados.
"There's something therapeutic about thumbing through records and CDs," says owner Michael Papa. "There used to be some place to buy a cd on pretty much every corner. Today, you're hard-stretched to find a place. All the bookstores don't carry them anymore, the big box stores don't carry them anymore."
Papa started working for Merle's at the Connecticut Post Mall when he was 15 -- it was his summer job. In 1984, just out of college at Southern Connecticut State University, he franchised the Racebrook Road location. Today, it's the only Merle's left -- but Papa says business is thriving.
"With a lot of the competition going away, we're a destination now," he says. "Guys come from two or three hours away and want to see every piece and every little corner of things."
These are the guys, says Papa, who are willing to take a trip to find a good record -- a Bruce Springsteen foreign import, a Backstreet Boys single, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on vinyl. Papa says he has 500 Beatles albums -- mono pressings, stereo pressings, picture discs. Audiophiles can convert vinyls, 8-tracks and cassettes to CD, or shop for hard-to-find audio equipment.
"People have come from Japan, from Germany, from Greece," Papa says. They'll tour from New York to Boston, Googling record stores along the way, and pop off the highway to visit.
From across the globe to right at home: Merle's has also become a haven for local musicians. High school rock bands have used the space for photo shoots, and Papa sells many CDs from local artists.
"It's a thread that runs deep," he says about the connection between local record stores and local bands. You can help support local bands -- and your local music store -- Saturday at Merle's Record Rack and help the store celebrate 50 years of surviving.
12-1: Johnny Trips Experience
1-2: Native Mode
3-4: Mark Rosenberg
4-5: Maxx Explosion
5-7: Rum Runners