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January 15, 2015

Girard record store struggles to stay afloat

Shopping Records Plus More
Records Plus More Craig Surgent/for PhillyVoice

A peek inside the Records Plus More shop, located at 205 W. Girard Ave.

Avid collectors Craig Surgent, of Freehold, N.J., and Rachel O'Donnell, of Northeast Philadelphia, spent years packing up and traversing the region to sell their collectibles at flea markets. Last fall, however, they collectively realized their bottomless pit of goods were meant for more than flea markets.

"We'd travel during the summer, and it suddenly seemed like a better idea to have a firm home base," Surgent told "Plus, this way, our stuff doesn't get deteriorated from weather conditions."

Surgent said the pair "lucked into" their 205 West Girard Avenue space, aptly titled Records Plus More; they considered moving into a South Street location, he said, but began to notice the street's tendency to "eats its young." They instead went the up-and-coming route; their 800-square-foot store sells more than 20,000 vintage items of the flea market variety -- everything from vinyl albums (he mentioned folk in particular, but there's a variety), CDs, DVDs, books, old lifestyle magazines, vintage toys, '70s glassware and, he particularly pointed out, a rad Elvis imitation guitar case with green lining in it that houses Elvis Presley movies and scripts.

The space, he said, is a hub of a lost variety: a place to organically meet people with common interests. 

"These are great places to talk to people -- in the flesh," he said. "For a long time, what we did was go to record shops and places like this and meet new people; and yes, you can do that on a computer now, but it's very impersonal. And so it's much better to have a place, and see the things you're buying -- it's up to your taste, I guess, but it's good to get out of the house."

Craig Surgent
RPM co-owner Craig Surgent peers through the looking glass in his Girard Avenue store. / Rachel O'Donnell

Surgent also said the duo is looking to host local artwork in the near future, and hopes to sell more albums made by local bands -- on consignment. 

Trouble is, he admitted, business has been slow -- like, really slow.

"I think we started at the wrong time," he said. "We started in November, and it got cold immediately. ... Just when the cold hit, business went slow."

Surgent said he expects traffic to pick up once spring arrives and a new parking garage goes up just behind their building, near the Piazza. In the meantime, they've started a fundraising campaign in hopes of accruing the $25,000 they deem necessary to stay solvent through the winter months. (The campaign caught the attention of Mayor Nutter on Twitter -- he popped by the shop last Wednesday to show support, Surgent said.) 

Records Plus More is open from 12:30-8 p.m.