After 35 years in business, the Princeton Record Exchange has a new owner.
Jon Lambert, who has worked at the Tulane Street store for 26 years and served at the store’s general manager for the last decade, has bought the record store that is considered one of the finest independent record stores in the country. The deal to purchase the store was in the works for several months, and the sale was finalized today.
“We’re going to rock on into the new era,” a joyful Lambert said at the store Friday afternoon.
“Barry Weisfeld has been doing this a long time and he’s built up a strong legacy,” Lambert said. “We will continue that legacy.”
Weisfeld felt it was time for him to let go of the business. Lambert said Weisfeld loves life on the road and the hunt for large music collections, but in recent years he was less involved in the day to day operations of the store. He will still be a part of the Princeton Record Exchange though, staying on as a consultant and coordinating the purchase of large collections.
In the era of music downloads and Spotify, operating a record store is a challenging business, but Lambert said sales of records, cds and vinyl at the Princeton Record Exchange are strong, and he is optimistic about the future.
“There are challenges, but there are also opportunities for growth,” he said. “Our age demographic has shifted downward, and that is very encouraging. We’re seeing a lot more customers in their teens and 20s in the store, and more women.”
The sale of vinyl records has increased about 400 percent over the last few years. People love visiting a record store in the Internet era because they love the tactile experience, he said.
Business is strong, but Lambert said he will be look for ways to expand. One possibility is offering special items for sale online that are also available in the store, like cd box sets and dvd box sets. The store will remain true to its brand, he said, offering a great selection, value prices and excellent customer service.
Lambert, 53, who grew up in Princeton and lives in Rocky Hill with his wife, Cynthia Myles Lambert, said one of the reasons he has always loved the town is because of all the independent stores.
About a third of the customers at the Princeton Record Exchange make a special trip to Princeton to visit the record store. Another third make Princeton one of their stops when they come to town, and a third of the store traffic is people who are just passing by and decide to go in, Lambert said.
“We’re happy to be a cornerstone of local independent stores,” he said. “I love the freedom of working at an independent store too. “You can try new things, experiment more, and take risks.”
Lambert began his career selling records when he was just 17. By 20 he managed a record store at the Quaker Bridge Mall. He’s always loved the arts, and music has always been a big part of his life. After school he liked to hang out with friends, listening to music.
“Music was the backdrop,” he said, adding that he got his first job at a record store by accident. He worked there because his friends were there. He has also worked in a book store and a video store.
“Music has always had a special place in my heart though,” he said.
Lambert said he was grateful to his wife for helping him with the decision to purchase the store. She has a business background, and worked in the business world before making a career change and becoming a librarian.
“She’s been very patient and she’s helped with a lot of the details,” he said.
Then Lambert’s phone started ringing again, someone came into the office to talk to talk, and it was back to business for the manager turned owner.