All you need is love, and vinyl

New High Street record shop spins variety
By Fran Gonzalez | Sep 19, 2019
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Owner Kaleagh Van Der Swaagh, left, of Midcoast Records, and jeweler Kimberly Wade pose in front of a record display Sept. 9 at their shop at 158 High St., Belfast.

Belfast — "I fell in love with this particular spot with its retro feel," said Kaleagh Van Der Swaagh, owner of Midcoast Records. "It screams record store."

Used vinyl records are what you will find at the newest shop on High Street, along with illustrated posters of artists, jewelry and novelties.

The record store gives off a vibe one might recall from younger days, hanging out in a friend's basement rumpus room, listening to records.

On one side of the long rectangular room is a turntable to play records and "make sure they are OK," Swaagh said.

The other side of the store is dominated by two big chairs of the comfy kind you would find at grandma's house, to sit back, listen and enjoy.

Swaagh started Midcoast Records in a 8-by-10-foot shed at her Northport home. It sprouted from her love of vinyl records and also from wanting to spend more time at home with her young son.

There, she compiled 15,000 LPs, she said, "all very well arranged and alphabetized."

The home location, she admits, was not ideal for selling records. She had "probably 30 customers this year at the old location."

Swaagh decided she was either going to close her small Northport location or find a real shop somewhere. Shortly thereafter, she happened upon the vacant space at 158 High St. that formerly was Treasured Leaf tea shop, across the street from Darby's.

"The market for vinyl records is there," she said, adding her best customers have been 13-year-old teenagers. And with new vinyl records averaging $25 to $30 each, less expensive used records are a viable option.

When Swaagh originally found out about the shop, she worried about covering the overhead, and placed an ad to share the space. Kimberly Wade answered the ad and the two have been fast friends since. Wade makes custom jewelry and tends the store while Swaagh works her second job cleaning houses.

"I'm thankful for Kim," Swaagh said, "I couldn't do it without her."

Wade said it is amazing how many young people have visited the shop. She said six young men came in at one time, browsing the bins, and one decided to play Frank Sinatra. It blew her mind.

"It's great to see them come in and scatter around and listen to records," she said.

Younger kids often come in looking for classic rock, Swaagh said, but by far the biggest seller has been jazz — surprising, she said, since most of the clientele are teens.

Swaagh said her "best" customer is into Cream and The Rolling Stones, but Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and B.B. King are her most popular artists.

The younger clientele is discovering how much better the sound is and how important the artwork is, she said.

"An album tells a story," Swaagh said. "You don't really get that from shuffle. There is a depth that isn't there with a digital copy."

With extensive inventory, Swaagh said she switches out the records every two weeks to keep the selection fresh.

It is important to keep customers coming back, she said.

"Next time they might find something new."

She said finding the right album for the right person is her favorite part of the job, followed closely by the feeling of being on a "treasure hunt." Anyone looking for a particular record can email Swaagh at midcoastvinylrecords@gmail.com.

To bring a little variety to the shop, once a month Swaagh's husband Joshua picks out a new band to feature. He writes a descriptive personal review and the record is placed prominently on a table, ready to be played. This month Joshua picked the band Strand of Oaks; next month the semi-local When Particles Collide will be spinning.

"I definitely feel like I have a good variety," Swaagh said. "We probably have more classic rock than anything else and eclectic things."

The records range in price and $6 to $15 is typical, she said. "We do have albums that are $80 to $100, and also a free bin as well."

Wade said gift cards are also available and make great gifts for music lovers.

So far, Swaagh said, business has been good but said they are still working out the ebb-and-flow of peak hours. Hours currently are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 4 to 8 p.m.; and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"It's a little sporadic for now," she said.

Swaagh is thankful the city of Belfast has welcomed her in and said she appreciates all the excitement about the shop.

"I had a whole shed worth of awesome," she said, "and now it's available for everyone to discover."

Visit facebook.com/midcoastvinylrecords/ for new arrivals and upcoming events.

Midcoast Records opened for business less than a month ago and has been busy selling a wide selection of vinyl records and jewelry. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
An important part of the business model at Midcoast Records, the turntable, allows customers to listen to a record before purchasing. Shown here Sept. 9, the shop is located at 158 High St., Belfast. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Classics available at Midcoast Records, a recently opened used vinyl store at 158 High St., Belfast. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Kaleagh Van Der Swaagh, owner of Midcoast Records at 158 High St., Belfast, displays one of her mother's illustrations Sept. 9. Any head shot, picture or album cover can be brought in to the shop and she will turn it into a work of art. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
From the outside looking in Sept. 9. Midcoast Records at 158 High St. has a variety of used vinyl LPs and jewelry. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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