Beatrice Orsini and her mother, Amy Bauersfeld, combed through the racks during the grand opening of REB Records in Bel Air, looking for LPs that struck their interest.
Beatrice, 15, of Abingdon, smiled as she took in the various album covers, including “An American Treasure,” a compilation album of Tom Petty tracks released after the famed rock singer died in late 2017.
“I like Tom Petty a lot,” said Beatrice, a sophomore at Patterson Mill High School. “We have a record player at home, so we always try to find cool records.”
The family-owned REB Records sells music on vinyl LPs as well as CDs, cassette tapes and 45s — customers can purchase new or used records. The store had a soft opening July 20 and its grand opening Aug. 31.
REB Records is the latest business to open in Armory Marketplace, the Town of Bel Air’s business incubator that has a waiting list to become a tenant and has already seen one former tenant “graduate” to the downtown business district.
Town officials are “thrilled with the way that things have been going” with the incubator, Economic Development Director Trish Heidenreich said.
Armory Marketplace was dedicated in the fall of 2018 and is comprised of five former garages behind the Bel Air Armory at 37 N. Main St. downtown. The town developed it with funding support from the state, Harford County and the Greater Bel Air Community Foundation.
REB Records joins fellow tenants Ferrari Frame & Design, Love Evolution Studio, Caprichos Books and the Harford Artists Gallery — the artists’ gallery is a permanent tenant. Town leaders planned for a “best-case” scenario for the incubato — “have the incubators fully filled,” Heidenreich said — based on similar projects that have succeeded in other communities.
Armory Marketplace tenants can rent an incubator space for up to three years, giving business owners time to evaluate their expenses and revenues, learn the local market and ascertain the demand for their products or services before shifting to a downtown storefront with a long-term lease.
A former tenant, the Kore Bootcamps fitness studio, has moved to 102 N. Main St., a short distance from the Armory. Kore Bootcamps had its grand opening for its new space this past spring, according to the business’ Facebook page.
“The main objective was to provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs to really dip their toes in the water and see whether their business ideas and their business dreams had legs to it,” Heidenreich said.
REB Records grand opening
Perry Hall resident Veronica Johns and a group of her friends checked out REB Records, along with Caprichos Books, during their visit to downtown Bel Air Aug. 31.
Johns, 21, said she does not listen to music on vinyl, but her parents do.
“I figure one day their collection will probably be mine,” said Johns, who likes soul and other music from the 1970s, as well as modern artists, noting “the John Mayer album caught my eye” during her visit to the record store.
Johns’ friend Jade Enright, who lives in Western Maryland, said she does not listen to vinyl but thought the store was “cool.”
“I have brothers and sisters that haven’t been to the [Bel Air] area,” she said. “The record shop would be something that would draw their attention.”
Enright also praised the other businesses in Armory Marketplace, noting the yoga studio and bookstore give it a “similar vibe” to downtown Frederick.
Vinyl popular with music lovers
There was a steady stream of customers inside REB Records for the grand opening, as people browsed racks filled with LPs by artists from a multitude of genres, including rock, hip-hop, R&B, country, jazz, even movie soundtracks and comedy albums. They could check out separate racks of CDs, cassettes and 45s.
The owners greeted people as they came in and offered refreshments. Local artist Mike Smith and his band, Paperhearts, performed live earlier in the day.
“For us, it’s an opportunity to do something locally and build a business that will bring people into the Bel Air area,” said Nora Lanahan, of Bel Air, whose family is one of two that own and operate REB Records — the name “REB” is an acronym of the first letter of the first names of the three children of both families.
Lanahan and her husband, Sean, said vinyl has become popular among music lovers, as the format is known for its “really nice, crisp, clear sound,” compared to newer media such as digital streaming. Vinyl is also poised to become the top seller among physical music media — across all age groups — this year, according to Sean Lanahan.
Popular artists such as Taylor Swift and the group Twenty One Pilots have released vinyl along with electronic versions of their albums, Sean noted.
Customer Kenny Brown, 59, of Havre de Grace, said he has loved music since he started listening to Simon & Garfunkel in the late 1960s
“Vinyl is very familiar to me,” Brown said. “If brings back a lot of memories.”
He said it is easier to use streaming music, but described vinyl as the ideal format for “audiophiles,” as listeners get “a truer reproduction” of the recording. He said even CDs “flatten out” the high and low ends of the sound.
“This is the real deal,” he said of vinyl. “You’re going to get the truest reproduction in sound.”
Bauersfeld said “it’s pretty cool” to have a record store in Harford County. She and her daughter, Beatrice, have visited flea markets, yard sales, and traveled to The Sound Garden in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood to find albums on vinyl.
Bauersfeld, 43, said her father would play his Motown records when she was growing up in an effort to expose his children to that style of music “instead of the pop music that was on the radio." She is trying to do the same with her daughter by acquiring different types of music on vinyl.
“You get a cool record as well as a memory of where you got it,” Beatrice said of the record-hunting trips with her mother.
Heidenreich described REB Records and Caprichos Books as examples of “nostalgia businesses,” niche establishments that have succeeded selling products such as books, records, even vintage clothing in an era of online shopping and digital literature and music.
“It’s a popular trend right now in terms of consumer behavior,” she said. “I think the incubator is a great place to look and test the waters to see if this is a trend or if this is here to stay.”
Such businesses encourage “community gatherings” and “community development” by giving people a space to hang out and browse vintage items, according to Heidenreich.
“We’re interested to see where this goes, what their demand level is going to be over time,” she said. “In the meantime, it’s fun and they are fun businesses, and they are bringing people into downtown so that’s a positive thing.”
Visit the REB Records-MD page on Facebook for more information about the store.