Haven for music collectors sustains quietly in District Heights
Soda drinkers revel about Coca-Cola’s original recipe that emphasized sugar as the prominent sweetener. Today the drinks are made with high-fructose corn syrup and other additives to minimize costs much to the dismay of longtime consumers who prefer the previous formula.
Memory Lane on Walters Lane record store manager Marshall Parson compared classic Coca-Cola aficionados to longtime vinyl record collectors saying that those who grew up listening to music on vinyls choose it over the digital sound of current music.
Parson and store owner Michael Earle serve passionate music lovers as one of the rare vinyl record stores in Prince George’s County.
Memory Lane provides a music shopping experience that cannot be found in larger retailers like Target or Walmart. Michael and maintain a detailed awareness of the 6000-vinyl catalog present in the store as well as vast knowledge of musical history derived from their passions and experiences.
Parson compares the record store atmosphere to that of a neighborhood bar. It serves as a space where customers feel comfortable conversing about music, current events and personal life.
Earle estimates that the customer base is split half-and-half between people who collect older records and those who still listen to music through older platforms.
The quaint store is adorned with crates of vinyl records but also sells cassette tapes, CD’s and music DVD’s of recent material to complement their expansive collection of older music.
Memory Lane on Walters Lane monitors customers’ interests and purchasing habits when determining the genres of music they keep in their inventory. They profit most from R&B, Hip Hop, Jazz and Blues sales but can provide lesser-known music for those with more specific taste.
According to Billboard’s Associate Director of Charts Keith Caulfield, vinyl sales increased for the sixth year in a row in 2013. Caulfield says, “In 2013, 6.1 million vinyl LPs were sold — up 33% compared to 2012’s haul of 4.55 million. 64% of all vinyl albums sold in 2012 were purchased at an independent music store (3% less than compared to indie stores’ share in 2012).”
Parson predicts vinyl sales will continue to thrive as a niche market because adults who grew up with the physical form of records continue to desire that nostalgia.
Although they identify their customer demographic as generally being working adults over the age of 30, they have noticed a recent increase in young adults’ interest in vinyl records. Parson says young adults are realizing that some older music cannot be downloaded online but still exists as records.
Earle and Parson admit they do not lower prices to compete with larger retailers who lower prices of newly-released albums to increase first-week sales can market. However, Parson says their higher prices compensate for the customer-service and rare collection of music made available to the customer.
The trademarked name ‘Memory Lane on Walters Lane’ drew inspiration from the name of a record store that had been open in the area for years before this store had opened. After years of selling music at vinyl trade shows, Earle opened the store on Walters Lane in District Heights where it has stood since 2002.
Memory Lane acknowledges that they would benefit from higher foot traffic in other Washington D.C. areas. However, they praise members of the Prince George’s County community for their loyalty. The area also allows them to operate cost efficiently by reducing rent and facilities costs far below what competitors in D.C. pay.
Parson would like to see Memory Lane further develop their online marketing efforts and venture into online vinyl sales to supplement the sales in their brick and mortar location. The key to successfully transitioning into this area would be delegating sufficient human resources to manage the tasks without tarnishing the services they already offer. This remains one of the largest challenges Memory Lane is preparing to overcome.