WAKEFIELD — Known for its extensive collection of Caribbean classics, the beloved Bronx music shop Moodies Records is moving six blocks south, to a smaller and more affordable space on East 219th Street.
Owner Earl Moodie Jr., who helps his father Earl Moodie Sr. run the store that first opened in 1982, said the shop will retain its emphasis on unique finds and top-notch customer service.
“Nobody really has to purchase music anymore if they don't want to. We still are very personal with our customers, that hasn't changed," he said. "But what has changed is the customer base. Now, every customer counts even more."
Stacks of rare Caribbean records fill the store, along with colorful vintage reggae posters, fliers for neighborhood dance parties and miscellaneous turntable accessories. With vinyl sales on the rise worldwide since 2006, Moodies has been able to hold on.
“Collectors want vinyl, not computerized music. At one time we thought it was over but have seen a bump in vinyl sales recently,” Moodie Sr. said.
The shop owner has vast musical knowledge, customer David Grossett said.
“I may not know the name of the song or singer, but by humming, Moodie knows then and there,” said the Bronx resident, who recently visited the store looking to put together a mix of old favorites for an upcoming trip to his native Jamaica.
Nielsen SoundScan, which has tracked album sales in the United States and Canada since 1991, reported the lowest weekly numbers in its history this past summer, when combined CD, cassette, vinyl and digital album sales plunged below the 5 million mark nationwide, as reported in Billboard.
“When I used to come here as a kid, people used to be hanging out for hours buying stacks of CDs. It was more of an experience, a meeting place,” Moodie Jr. said.
He prides himself on having tourists from around the world come to purchase his rare tunes.
“People come from Germany, Kosovo, Japan. It’s spread by word of mouth over the years,” Moodie Sr. said.
Moodie Sr., who left Jamaica for New York City when he was 15, typically sits on a record crate towards the back of the store, slowly bobbing his head as employees blast classic rocksteady, dancehall and other Jamaican genres on the store's powerful sound system.
Before opening his store in 1982, Moodie Sr. worked as a store manager at Brad’s Record Den, just a few blocks away, he said. Brad’s has since closed.
While the decline in CD sales has forced major music retailers such as Tower Records and Virgin Megastore to close their brick-and-mortar stores in recent years, boutique stores like Moodies have found ways to survive.
Moodie Sr. said he wasn't concerned about the move to a smaller space this week.
“In life you can’t worry about the future. I’m a strong believer of destiny, and whatever is going to happen, will. Good and bad,” he said, adding that he was optimistic about the relocation.
“I’m actually looking forward to it," Moodie Jr. agreed.
Selbourne Bigbie, another Jamaican immigrant who lives in the Bronx, has been shopping at Moodies for more than 25 years.
“Any type of music you want, you can get it here,” said Bigbie, who was looking for classic reggae from the 1960s and ‘70s and bought a Bunny Wailer CD.
But Moodies caters to anyone who will buy, not just those seeking classic Caribbean recordings.
“He always says, ‘If we don’t have it, we can get it for you’,” Moodie Jr. said of his father. “He never turns away a customer.”
“This is something that I love to do...Whether you're a business person in finance or doctor or CEO, it’s not often that you're doing something that you really love,” said Moodie Sr. before he took a bite of a piping hot Jamaican patty that friends from a nearby bakery dropped off for him.