In the heyday of grand record stores, those long-gone places were more than just a store to buy music, they were community hangouts that stocked everything from vinyl to cassettes to CDs and music magazines, posters, merchandise, and often had stages for live shows. True music lover meccas. But those places are gone, victims of changing tastes, formats, and gentrification.
But all is not lost! Melanie and Jesse Feldman, the owners of Rust & Wax Record Shop, started at Elizabeth Station two and a half years ago and have now made the leap into their own stand-alone store in the new Industry Alley district off Belvedere Rd.
“We believe that, at its core, a record shop should be a place for discovering and expanding your love of music, free of judgment,” the couple says. “We started Rust & Wax to give West Palm Beach the record shop we always wanted to see in our community – a record shop that was designed to provide you with a comfortable space to explore and find new music.”
This is their first store, selling vinyl and cassettes only right now. CDs and 8-track need not apply. As a physical medium, cassettes are coming back with Walkman cassette players being reissued.
“Vinyl is big now,” Jesse says, “the comeback started in the early 2000s and has picked up steam. People like the connection with an actual album, the lyrics sheets, the artwork, maybe colored limited editions, it all adds to the experience. We have had a great reception to our new space—even though we opened in a pandemic! In the past year the only experience of music most people have had is recorded so there has been a spike in business. People have been craving something like this in the area for a long time, a communal space. My first job was at Spec’s in high school and I miss the record store experience to look through records, magazines. This is filling a void, a hangout space.”
A coffee shop is ready to open next door, which will add to the community feel.
“We can turn people onto new music,” Melanie says. “When the coffee shop opens, we are planning outdoor shows in the fall; some events, DJs playing, some live music, record releases. We want to get people out, we have lawn space and parking lot space here. When we saw all the space that was a big attraction for us. It’s about connection to music and community you don’t get with a download.”
Rust & Wax gets their vinyl from distributors, private collectors, small labels, and by tracking down collections on their own. They sell or trade, will go to their place and buy. Customers can trade for in-store credit too.
The couple brings personality to the store, it feels like a welcoming space, no judgment, with a couch to hang out, listen to music on headsets, and browse. They inform people about record players to play their new vinyl on. And as some people have never seen records, Melanie and Jesse teach how to maintain them.
Their focus is on rock, pop, and especially jazz as there is a revival on the jazz scene. Soul and funk is a passion project, too. But they’re still figuring some things out, what works and what does not.
At Rust and Wax music resonates throughout the store. Here, the shopping experience is all about the product. The masked bin-diving clientele can easily get the specific album they have sought for days, months, years.
In an era when CDs have lost their luster and downloads are down the drain Rust and Wax keeps the sound warm; their covers can be unrivaled artworks for music lovers. Perhaps it will become the most influential, hospitable, and downright essential record shop in Florida.
Rust & Wax is at 2618 Florida Ave, West Palm Beach, 33401. Online at rustandwax.com
Rust and Wax brings back the community record store