Spinnaker Records will celebrate its 30th anniversary on Cape Cod next year. With iTunes, podcasts, iPhones and tablets competing for our attention, one has to wonder: What is the shelf life of the Cape’s last truly independent record store?By CHRISTOPHER KAZARIAN • Photography JULIA CUMES
On a Saturday morning in the middle of April, more than two dozen customers are lined up outside Spinnaker Records on Hyannis’ Main Street, well before its 8 a.m. opening. They are eager to get their hands on limited releases of vinyl, CDs and even cassette tapes.
Welcome to Record Store Day, the equivalent of Black Friday for music enthusiasts, which kicked off in the spring of 2008 as a way to celebrate the unique culture of a dying breed—independently owned record stores throughout the world.
The annual event brings a much-needed financial boost to shops like Spinnaker while allowing customers to get their hands on rare items like this year’s reissue of Brand New’s sophomore album “Déja Entendu.”
“We only had one,” says longtime store employee Randy Wickersham. “It sold first thing.”
Walking into Spinnaker Records transports customers back in time to what could double as a teenager’s dream bedroom. There are bobbleheads (Chewbacca, Rocket Raccoon and Jack Skellington), T-shirts featuring popular movies (“Jaws’) and popular bands (The Beatles), portable turntables, Monopoly sets for the Grateful Dead or “The Walking Dead” fan, and a 1,000-piece “The Big Lebowski” jigsaw puzzle for the dude in all of us.
At some point in the 1990s, record stores no longer were just record stores, expanding to encompass a slew of ancillary objects that fall under the same category as music—entertainment. “No store that has CDs would be in business today,” store owner Cameron Wieden says. “You have to have LPs, posters, T-shirts; we have thousands of DVDs and stickers.”
It is just one example of the change that has occurred since Wieden started working at Spinnaker in 1989, three years after the Hyannis store first opened under founder Jeff Grant. By the mid-90s, Wieden was the sole owner and had expanded the store’s presence to Falmouth as well as Provincetown, where the shop was called Strange Ways.
For more than a quarter century, Wieden’s career has been defined by the soundtrack of Spinnaker Records. “I enjoy music and enjoy all styles from classical and jazz to alternative and rock,” he says, explaining his connection to the store. “And it is great to turn somebody on to Pat Metheny or Tchaikovsky or a newer group like R.E.M.”
Over the years, Wieden has witnessed firsthand the evolution of the music industry. At its height, two decades ago, a new Dave Matthews Band release would sell 100 copies at Spinnaker Records. These days, “it’s only a few,” Wieden says.
The surge in people getting music online—coupled with competition from larger stores like Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target—forced Wieden to close his Provincetown and Falmouth stores in the past decade.
Today, the last remaining store is a barebones operation manned by Wieden, Josh Maurer, the former manager of the Falmouth branch, and Wickersham, who has two decades of service under his belt.
Despite the ever-changing nature of the industry, Wieden is confident in Spinnaker’s future. “I can see us being here and successful for another 10 or 15 years because we’re so diverse,” he says. “I think we’ll be the last man standing that sells music because we sell new and used, and there is a new generation that wants to have an LP in their hands.”
These are people like Wickersham, whose longevity at the store can be explained by his passion for the products found in this modern-day relic. “I’m a big music and movie fan, so this lets me be around the things that I love,” he says, before being approached by a customer looking for Noel Gallagher’s “High Flying Birds” LP.
And with that he was off, helping someone else feed their love of music. It is that common bond that makes stores like Spinnaker so special.
The store also serves as a setting for exploration. “I kind of comb for new music,” says writer Ryan Bray of Falmouth, who doubles as the drummer of the band Needle Beach. “You can pass the time and lose a whole afternoon looking through the racks. But you don’t feel like you’re wasting your time. You kind of get lost in it.”
Daniel Harrington of Hyannis, the vocalist for the heavy metal band Fistula, was another local musician who found himself inside Wieden’s shop on Record Store Day. As he clutched a 12-inch LP of D.R.I’s “Live at CBGB’s 1984,” he spoke enthusiastically about why he prefers vinyl over digital. “It is something to pick up,” he says, highlighting the tactile experience of music. But there is an additional allure to vinyl; Harrington showcased the cover art of the album which featured a colorful cartoon drawing of police, fans and the band outside the now-defunct punk club located in New York City’s East Village.
“I love the clean sound,” says Wareham’s Timothy Holmes, adding another layer to vinyl’s popularity. “It is just a whole different experience. It makes listening to music more of an occasion.”
And many will go to extreme lengths to capture that experience. On this day, Eric Law made the trek from his home in Hanover, crossing the canal on his way to Hyannis. His destination, of course, was Spinnaker.
Holding close to 20 albums, the 55-year-old waxed poetic about the old days of record store shopping. “I think it’s a crime to download one song you hear on the radio,” he says, arguing that investing in a band means listening to an entire album to discover hidden gems not played on the air.
On this day, his investment is close to $300 worth of LPs. When Wieden rang up the total, Law barely flinched, commenting seconds later that, “any day buying records is fun,” before walking out the door.
And that may be Spinnaker Records’ greatest legacy.
When asked what he hoped customers would remember if and when the day comes that his store closes, Wieden paused for a second, before answering.
“It’s pretty corny,” says Wieden, “but I hope people enjoyed coming here, had a good time and got something they enjoyed or loved.”