Spinning Records at Joe’s Albums

Joe's Records

Spinning Records at Joe’s Albums
By Nick Abraham

Joe's Records
Joe’s Records

Bruce Springsteen famously mused, “we learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned in school,” captivating the hearts of music lovers everywhere. After talking with Joe Demers, owner of local record store Joe’s Albums, which recently relocated from Pleasant Street to Mechanics Hall, one thing was very clear – Joe is a music lover.

The walls of the new location on 317 Main Street are adorned with posters and music memorabilia. A pair of leather boots worn by The Boss himself during his Born In The USA tour sit in a glass display case. A mannequin sporting an outfit worn by The Runaways’ guitarist Lita Ford stands tall in the center of the room. The rock & roll relics on display create a nostalgic atmosphere that can make any music lover feel at home. Joe’s Albums has an ample selection of records, t-shirts, magazines, and turntables.

I spoke with Joe about the humble beginnings and exciting future of Joe’s Albums.

New Worcester Spy: How did Joe’s Albums get started?
Joe Demers: I got into it about seven years ago. I was bored in the winter, so I pulled out stuff I hadn’t listened to in 15-20 years and fell in love with it. I didn’t have many places to buy at the time – online, websites were dedicated to the high end stuff, not just stuff you wanted to listen to, and eBay was always questionable as far as quality. I started looking for places to buy, and ended up buying some collections from people and built my own website. So for two years before opening the brick and mortar store I was just an online store, and I was buying collections and selling there and continued to grow. I actually had orders the first day I went online.

NWS: Have you always been a collector?
JD: I grew up with it so I just had my stuff from when I was a kid, and back then it was just like getting a CD – that’s just what you played. I had plenty of CD’s and things like that, too, so I wouldn’t say collector, just a music lover who had plenty of it. When I started buying some collections I thought there was a void in the market for the common stuff – to go in and get things for three, four, five dollars – that’s what I started the website with. It continued to build for a couple years, then it was like, I don’t want it in my house anymore, and I figured if I was paying for storage I might as well get a place I can open up for weekends.

I was still working full time, so I did that at first. I had a kid from Clark who would work for me on Fridays while I was at work and did that for a few years, until a year and a half ago I decided to leave my corporate job. At that time, I was executive level – VP of operations for the company I was working for, which was pretty demanding. My kids are teenagers, so getting to their games, getting them around, that sort of stuff, and trying to continue to grow this business on my own, which is more my passion, I was getting worn out between those things. I wasn’t going to give up the family so it came down to the store or the corporate career, and that was something I could get back to hopefully. But with this, I would have always wondered if I could have, and that would have always bothered me.

NWS: Were you ever involved in the local music scene?
JD: Not really. I’ve always known people in bands but I was never deep into it. When I was in my twenties that’s what everyone did, or at least it seemed like it to me, so every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, there were clubs all around Worcester you would go and see live bands. That scene isn’t there as much anymore, in my opinion. I think those places struggle. Like Tammany Hall not far from here — that used to be one of those places and isn’t even open anymore, and a few others like that. I think a lot of it has gone underground to the collectives around the city.

NWS: Is that something you would you like to bring that back, seeing as how you’re now located down the street from the Palladium and near a lot of colleges,?
JD: Yeah; actually, one of the reasons why I selected this location was because upstairs on the top floor there’s the Great Hall that’s for orchestras and everything else and holds different events, but on the second floor there’s one called Washburn Hall that holds about 300 people and has a built-in stage, sound system, bar and everything. I talked to them when I was negotiating for this space about booking and promoting in that room, so that is what I want to get to. There are lots of places outside of Worcester that have a good rotation of touring acts, like the Iron Horse in Northampton, TCAN in Maine, Tupelo Hall in Londonderry, New Hampshire. I always thought Worcester lacked that 200-300 capacity room where you can go relax and see a show, either an up and comer or acts that have maybe passed their prime but are still good to go see. That’s what I’d like to do up there.

The Palladium has their heavier scene which is something I’d like to tie into, and be open later when they’re having events and cater towards that. It’s right there, and I already see on nights of events everybody’s there early and there’s nothing else open around here and they’re walking up and down Main St., so I’ll stay open late on those nights and hopefully get some traffic.

It’s something that has been lacking, and all those other places prosper so I never understood why Worcester didn’t have that type of venue. There’s enough population around here so whether it’s something that caters to the college crowd or more jazzy, middle-age crowd, there’s enough people that a 200-300 seat room should be able to do it. I know myself personally, if there’s something at the Hanover or DCU that I wouldn’t go out to Boston to see, I’m like, it’s right there, and it’s just convenient and nice, so you’re more apt to go see things you might not travel for. Once I completely settle in here I’ll start reaching out to some of those booking agents and try to get that going.

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