By: Joseph Massaro, Alex Ulatowski, Nate Mundt, Paul Elliott and Matt Wilson
Canalside Chronicles Staff
Trader Shag’s Emporium is an independently owned record store, located on Main St. in Brockport, NY.
Trader Shag’s is the only operating music store throughout the Village of Brockport, which is thirty-minutes away from the much larger and popular record stores in Monroe County, including Record Archive and House of Guitars.
As you enter Trader Shag’s, you are automatically enthralled by the amounts of posters decorating the walls, whether it’s of the Beatles or the Ramones. Trader Shag’s is best known for carrying new and used vinyl records, CDs and movies.
Originally from the Rochester area, owner and manager of Trader Shag’s Geoff Dwyer has been running his business since 1990.
In the late 1980s when Dwyer was shopping at the old Compact Disc Exchange on Mt. Hope Avenue., which is currently Hi Fi Lounge on Monroe Avenue., he decided to quit his job as a baker at Wegmans and open a record store. Dwyer started talking to the owner of the Compact Disc Exchange, Mark Kaidy on how to start his own record store.
“I guess you can say I gave him [Dwyer] a few tips. He was a customer of mine and he told me he was going to be moving and starting up a place, so I thought I should help him out because I had experience at that point, so I hooked him up with some suppliers,” Kaidy said.
After discussing with his wife Coleen who owns and runs Coleen’s Kitchen also on Main St., she encouraged her husband to do what he was passionate about.
In 1990, Dwyer alongside his wife looked for other areas to open his own record store, since Rochester already had plenty of competition in the business.
Dwyer landed his first business in Danbury, Connecticut. He opened a record store, named Compact Disc Exchange mirroring Kaidy’s store.
Working in Danbury, Dwyer had a few famous celebrities and musicians stop by his store including guitarist from the Cars, Elliott Easton.
“Elliott had a friend who worked for PolyGram Records Inc., in New York City, who would dump promotional CDs and trade them. He would get Jazz albums in return because that’s what he wanted to get into at the time,” said Dwyer.
Later on, Dwyer and his wife found the cost of living in Danbury to be expensive and moved back to New York.
Coincidentally, when they moved to Brockport, the owner of the previous record store here, Leaping Lizards had just closed its doors and the store was up for sale. Dwyer took this opportunity to relocate his store in Brockport and give it a new name.
September of 1997 is when Trader Shag’s officially became known to the Village of Brockport. With workers coming and going through years, it is solely Dwyer who operates the store currently.
It was pure luck that the old record store closed its doors six months before Dwyer brought his business to the village. However, when Dwyer came in 1997, he faced a challenge all record stores were encountering: streaming services.
Many record stores were greatly impacted and took a hit when streaming services emerged throughout the 2000’s. Most recently, Lakeshore Record Exchange on Park Avenue in Rochester, closed its doors in 2017. Over the years, record stores have had to look for alternatives to stay in business.
“It was a boom when we first opened because there was a lot more foot traffic than I had in my old store. Then when Napster came out, [online music service] which derived from college campuses, it became slower and slower,” Dwyer said.
At his old store, Dwyer was a business owner at the peak of demand for CDs.
Unlike record stores in Rochester, it’s difficult for Dwyer to carry local music in his store, since the last band to emerge from the area was a folk-rock group named Clop, from the mid-2000’s. Also, it’s difficult because most of the concert venues are outside the village.
The best Dwyer can do is find an artist or emerging band in or outside the village and he’ll display copies of a promo of the group’s work on the counter where customers cash out.
“There used to be guys who worked for record companies and called you up constantly and would promote bands with posters, flats and in-store play copies, which has pretty much disappeared altogether,” Dwyer said.
Dwyer’s wife offered her husband some more advice. She told him to start selling stuff on eBay.
“I would’ve closed definitely if it wasn’t for eBay. The store sales were not enough to keep me open. When I started eBay services [in 2003], it saved me. So much of my business is through eBay,” Dwyer said.
Trader Shag’s isn’t the only record store now selling a diverse number of items. Recently, Record Archive has been promoting its new backroom lounge, where customers can enjoy live music and craft beer and wine.
A frequent customer of Trader Shag’s, Danielle Windus-Cook has bonded with her son by shopping at Trader Shag’s for quite some time. She’s also noticed the many changes record stores had to go through to survive.
“He’s had to go into different directions and I know he had to do that to maintain his business, which I have a lot of respect for him for doing that because there are a lot of people who don’t change when you’re a business owner,” Cook said.
Also now with the gradual resurgence of vinyl, Record Store Day and Black Friday deals emerging in the mid-2000’s, Trader Shag’s sales are much better.
“I have one customer who will usually order $1600 worth of stuff he ordered from me. My store isn’t anything like Record Archive, but if people were smart, they would come here because there aren’t huge lines forming outside the building like there are in Rochester,” Dwyer said.
James Thompsell is a manager at Record Archive, who lives locally in the Village of Brockport and enjoys shopping at Trader Shag’s.
“It’s partly different from the record stores in Rochester, which is a good thing. We need a bunch of diverse record stores and it’s great for Brockport to have,” said Thompsell.
Even though Trader Shag’s receives excellent reviews from customers and has established a cult following in terms of quality, it has yet to be recognized by some in Monroe County.