Keeping The Vinyls Spinning

Photo by David Khorassani.

There is a certain romance about buying and playing a new record: whether it be the alluring scratchiness of their sound, their vintage, musky scent or the way the fragile vinyl feels in the palms of your hands.

Some people enjoy records so much that they make careers out of buying and selling them. One of those people is Stephen Gritzan, the owner of Iris Records, a record store in Jersey City which he opened in 1996.

After being laid off from a job as a retail stockbroker on Wall Street in the mid ‘90s, Gritzan figured he could make some extra money by selling some of his old records. And thus Iris Records was born.

Gritzan and Iris Records, like many other record buyers and sellers from across the east coast, came together for the annual Record Riots — traveling through Jersey City, Brooklyn, New Haven and Cromwell, Connecticut and also making an appearance in the Hudson Valley on Saturday, Sept. 19.

Previously located across the Hudson in Beacon, Gritzan decided New Paltz would be a better place to host this year’s Hudson Valley Record Riot because of the diversity of the people and because of the town’s well-known and simple location: right off the New York State Thruway and close to other metropolitan areas like Poughkeepsie, Newburgh and Kingston.

The pivotal deciding factor for Gritzan was that in the heart of New Paltz lies the College, home to students, who make up a large demographic of record buyers today.

“The idea was that college students are buying records now in a way they weren’t at one point,” he said. “Since all new music comes out on vinyl now, we figured that would be a good drawing card.”

This year’s Record Riot hosted over 35 tables of record buyers and sellers, offering up vinyls from every genre under the sun including rock, funk, jazz, hip hop, country and more.

Jeff Rubel, a record buyer and seller from the Manhattan borough of Queens, also came to buy and sell records. The influence of his older brother introduced him to the eclectic world of vinyl records, where he discovered classic, counterculture rock bands like The Beatles, The Grateful Dead and The Doors.

Rubel, whose daughter studied women’s gender and sexuality studies at SUNY New Paltz, influenced him to create a category of all LGBTQIA+ artists, which includes artists such as Joan Armatrading, a British singer-songwriter and guitarist of the rock, pop and blues genres.

Like Gritzan, Rubel also believes that records are becoming more popular today, despite the highly digitized world we live in.

“A lot of private record companies are releasing vinyl, so it’s making a comeback,” he said. “People want to spin discs again. The sound is better than CDs.”

Gritzan feels that there has been a rejection of CDs as of late because of a “backlash” towards technology. He thinks people like records more today because it takes them back to an older, maybe even simpler, world.

“Records are unique, tangible items in a world that’s becoming less tangible,” he said. “I think there’s a more sensuous kind of feeling about them than the clinicalness of mp3s and iPods. People like holding a record. They like the idea of the cover and turning it over. These are all quaint things in this modern world we live in, so it’s nice to have some old fashioned stuff going on.”

In terms of Record Riot, Gritzan said that this event is a good annual opportunity to get people together who have similar interests and to build a community.

“It’s a chance for people to share a passion and to share ideas and music and to have fun,” he said.