South Slope

Permanent Records Celebrates One Year In South Slope, And We Want Them For Keeps

Permanent Records
The reporter cleaned up. Finds include “Radio City” by Big Star, a Carl Reiner/Mel Brooks comedy record, and The Who’s “Tommy” in fantastic condition. (Photo by Donny Levit / South Slope News)

And there it was — a beautiful copy of the album Radio City by Big Star. While I was here to interview Matthew Milligan, manager of Permanent Records (159 20th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues), it was impossible not to do some browsing. For the love of research, right?

If only there were a 1967 Ford Mustang Convertible outside to jump into and listen to “Back of a Car.” But speaking with Milligan and browsing the shop was so enjoyable, that we could put the Mustang dream aside for now. (And what Mustang has a turntable in it, anyway?)

And while Permanent Records is celebrating just over a year in its new South Slope space, the durability of the vinyl shop has a history of being tested.

Owner Marjorie Eisenberg opened P-Recs (as it is called by their dedicated following) in 2007 in Greenpoint. It’s the same story you hear all too often — a beloved business getting priced out of the neighborhood and losing its lease.

P-Recs was the only record store in Greenpoint when it first opened. By the time they moved to our neighborhood, multiple record stores had set up shop. “I was one of the first businesses over on Franklin [Street] making it happen over there, regardless of what I was selling,” says Eisenberg, when she was interviewed by Mashable. “In that sense, I kind of feel like a pioneer.”

P-Recs becomes the third of the Slope’s record stores, although “Slope” is a debatable term in these parts. The shops are a healthy walk from each other.

Fifth Avenue Records & Tapes (439 5th Avenue at 9th Street) is owned by Tony Mignone and has been around for 43 years. The store’s existence has been threatened in the past. But in a recent phone call, Mignone says “don’t believe the hype. We are very open.” Music Matters (413 7th Avenue near 13th Street) has been open since 1998 and is run by its owner Jason.

Permanent Records
Photo by Donny Levit / South Slope News

P-Recs re-located and re-opened October 1, 2014 at BrooklynWorks at 159, which is a co-working space that had just celebrated its own one-year anniversary at the time — and the two businesses have collaborated well together.

“We knew this was not a place that people just stumble across,” says manager Matthew Milligan. “Vinyl is a destination.”

In recent years, both Gothamist and Time Out New York have named Permanent Records one of the top record stores in the city.

Milligan has been with P-Recs for six years. Like many record shops, the people behind the counter are the ones who make a store like this so special.

Matthew Milligan
Matthew Milligan does his thing, and Patti Smith does hers. (Photo by Donny Levit / South Slope News)

It’s an understatement to say that Milligan knows his music. And he’s not just a collector/listener/expert. Milligan plays bass for the band Wheatus. (The band’s song “Teenage Dirtbag” was featured in Loser, a film from 2000.)

We asked him about that feeling casual listeners sometimes get when asking questions in a record store — that fear of not wanting to be embarrassed about their music knowledge. “I agree. There is such a stereotype of intimidation. We want to buck that stereotype,” says Milligan. “The idea that someone wouldn’t want to ask a question — we don’t want that happening here.”

David Nemzer and Matthew Milligan
David Nemzer, contributing editor to The Audiophile Voice (left) and Matthew Milligan. (Photo by Donny Levit / South Slope News)

Because of P-Recs’ excellent selection, the shop attracts the audiophiles as well. The day we visited, David Nezmer was doing some vinyl hunting. Nezmer is a contributing editor for Audiophile Voice Magazine. He was in agreement when we discussed how fair the pricing was for the stock.

“I send people here all the time,” says Nezmer. “It’s an unusual store. Lot of records stores have their share of trash records. You don’t see that here at all.”

As Wave by Patti Smith Group was spinning, we asked Milligan about what he is into nowadays. “I’ve been listening to the new Joanna Newsom record [Divers]. It’s really popular, too — we’ve sold out of it a few times,” he says.

While cool Patti Smith was singing in the background, Milligan didn’t mind telling me he had also been listening to The Cars and ELO. “I’m all over the map,” he says. We shared our love for The Cars album Candy-O, and moments later talked about Sonic Youth, Big Star, Yo La Tengo — and The Beatles, of course.

Permanent Records
Photo by Donny Levit / South Slope News

And with the generosity of conversation comes trust. P-Recs has a section for 45s that sits just outside of the store’s entrance. When they’re closed, the 45s are out in the open and for sale. Payment is done through the honor system. They cost just a few bucks, and people are supposed to leave cash. “The system works well,” remarks Milligan. “I think people take an honor code seriously.”

sonic youth
A true original pressing of the first Sonic Youth LP. (Photo via permanent_records)

While writing this article, I’ve been checking out P-Recs’ instagram account. It’s a great resource to see what’s in stock. Just yesterday, I saw that they received an original pressing of the first Sonic Youth LP. You can see by our conversation that I was very excited to hear it’s still available.

So it’s time to dart down to P-Recs to pick up that LP before any of you sneak over there before me. But not only am I looking forward to the LP — it’s about talking with Matthew Milligan, being around interesting customers, and being very proud that P-Recs is now in our neck of the woods.

Permanent Records is located at 159 20th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues (go up one floor and they are in the back — anyone can point you in the right direction) and open Wednesdays-Saturdays from 12pm-7pm. You may also purchase many items from the shop online. They can be reached by phone at 718-383-4083. Their twitter, instagram, and Facebook accounts are very active, so follow them to see what is in stock.

Special holiday hours through December 23: P-Recs is open everyday between 12pm-7pm.

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