Nob Hill Music survives economic hardship by selling old-fashioned sounds

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Steve Schroeder, owner of Nob Hill Music, stands in front of his record store. He says building the proposed Albuquerque Rapid Transit system would bankrupt him.

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Walking through the heart of Nob Hill in Albuquerque can be a daunting exercise, passing, as you will, the emptied storefronts of businesses slaughtered by the Project Albuquerque Rapid Transit punch and pandemic restrictions, not to mention the challenges. faced by small businesses at the best of times.

This Italian ice cream place is gone, as is the Asian restaurant and a few other eating places. The gallery that was here – the one with the quirky and quirky art – moved to Algodones. Pity.

But then, just ahead, fluttering in a light fall breeze like a defiantly screaming beacon is the rack of Hawaiian shirts that Steve Schroeder displays outside his Nob Hill Music store. For $ 10 you can buy a piece of paradise or a ticket to Margaritaville.

And if the shirts are out there, the store – filled with treasures of vintage vinyl records, CDs, cassettes, framed album covers, record label coasters, and related items – is open.

“It’s an essential business,” Schroeder said. “Vaccines take care of the body, but music takes care of the soul.”

It seems extraordinary that in an age when most people download music digitally to smartphones, computers and MP3 players, where turntables are rarer than phone books, cassette tape recorders are an endangered species. disappearance and automakers are no longer installing CD players in vehicles, that a store selling records, tapes and CDs can survive the sinking economy of today. How’s it going ?

“And the customers come here and say, ‘Keep the change.’ Customers come here and just give me records to sell. People come here every week and buy something just to help me stay open.

There is no doubt that some of these people, if not most, are vinyl junkies with a vested interest in keeping their supplier up and running.

Schroeder, 75, had worked at Albuquerque’s record store, Natural Sound for 24 years, when he recognized a renewed desire for vinyl recordings, which had been supplanted years earlier by cassettes and CDs.

This prompted him to open Nob Hill Music 12 years ago at 3419 Central NE, where it is still located. The store began selling vinyl only, with around 1,500 recordings from Schroeder’s own collection. Used CDs and cassettes came later.

Today, 60% of the store’s music stock and 95% of Schroeder’s extensive personal music collection are vinyl records.

“The sound is warmer,” Schroeder said of the vinyl. “Vinyl records can have brochures or booklets, inserts, picture sleeves, posters, different shapes and colors that add to the knowledge of artists and their music. Plus, playing and having records is more engaging, requires some really cool vintage gear, and records are quite collectable.

It’s not just people of Schroeder’s age range who stalk the music of decades past.

He said a young man recently walked into the store and bought a two-CD set of Peggy Lee, the sultry jazz and popular music singer who made her first recording in the early 1940s. And there is had the 16-year-old who quit and picked up a vinyl record of Fabian, the teenage idol singer whose career began in the late 1950s.

“The internet gives you the ability to see and find things that you never knew before,” he said. “The youngest explore. And I keep hearing that buyers like older music because it is so much better than the new ones available.

Schroeder grew up in Santa Fe watching Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” dance show on television. His own taste for music is an evolving thing. At first he was a fan of soulful singers such as Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, and the Four Tops, but most of his personal record collection is rock music, and, if pushed, he’ll be highlighting the Beach Boys. and the Beatles as favorites in this genre. Nowadays, his taste is on jazz.

“I love pianists and singers,” he said. “But my all-time favorite personal record is (producer) Giles Martin’s 50th anniversary remix from ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. ‘ It almost sounds like that hip-hop beat, but it’s the Beatles. It’s modern, it’s fresh, but it’s the Beatles.

Schroeder comes through his love for old things that are hard to come by honestly. His family moved to Santa Fe because his father, Albert H. Schroeder, was a Southwest Indian archaeologist employed by the National Park Service.

His mother, Ella, sold real estate for banks, insurance companies and individuals.

“She bought me a lot of records from thrift stores,” Schroeder said of her mother. “She taught me all the tricks of the trade. She would also find Hawaiian shirts. I started wearing them, and people were like, “Where did you get this? I heard the request. This led to the shirt rack outside the store.

“I was only selling them during (Nob Hill) Summerfest,” Schroeder said. “Now I sell them from April Fools to Halloween.”

After graduating from Santa Fe High in 1964, Schroeder enrolled at the University of New Mexico but soon left to join the Navy.

“I started collecting records in the Navy around 1967,” he said. “It was the first time I had a job and made money. I was in surf music at the time.

After the Navy, Schroeder returned to UNM. He received an undergraduate degree in business administration in 1974 and a master’s degree in public administration in 1979. But perhaps his most valuable training in college was the experiences he gained outside of the classroom. class.

“I helped my friend get elected president of the student body at UNM, and he appointed me president of the popular entertainment committee,” Schroeder said. “He knew that I collected music and that I knew artists. “

In the early 1970s, Schroeder began booking musicians for the UNM football stadium, the Pit, and the Popejoy Hall.

“The first show on the football field featured Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs, Marshall Tucker, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the James Cotton Blues Band,” said Schroeder. “After that, there were the Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder at the Pit. “

He drove members of the Allman Brothers Band around Albuquerque in his 1967, four-speed, red GTO with a black vinyl soft top.

“There were three in the back seat and Gregg Allman in the front passenger seat,” said Schroeder. “They all wanted to buy the car.

Because he had managed to manage his buddy’s campaign for the post of student body president, people started calling him for help on other election runs. It turned into a political advice gig that he did for many years.

“I have 200 campaigns under my belt, from student council president to Bill Richardson and Jeff Bingaman,” Schroeder said. “I worked on the campaigns for the first openly gay person elected in New Mexico and the first Hispanic woman elected to the Supreme Court (of New Mexico).

Schroeder, a man of opinions and principle, may have run for public office, but he said his wife Sherry Rice, drummer for Swing Shift, a dance and big band group, did not wouldn’t let him.

His political background, however, came in handy when he decided to take on the ART 2016-17 project, which set up a rapid bus lane from Unser, along Central, through Nob Hill to Tramway.

“I drove the ART route, from Louisiana to Coors, 11 miles, on both sides of the street,” Schroeder said. “It took me weeks. I, as well as others, obtained all these signatures, several thousand, from companies and individuals who were against ART. Fighting ART was not a choice, but a responsibility. It seemed like a waste of money with no obvious benefit.

Schroeder went so far as to file a recall petition against District 6 Councilor Pat Davis because he felt Davis was ignoring his constituents’ concerns about ART. He withdrew the petition once it became apparent the project was a done deal.

Schroeder said ART has damaged his business and killed many more.

“People didn’t come here because of the construction,” he said. “I started to keep a list of places that went bankrupt along the ART route. I stopped counting to 63.

His store was closed from March 20 to September 3, 2020, due to the pandemic. When it reopened, it reduced its operating days from six to four. Now it’s open from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Stopping the pandemic was a brutal blow, but it is not bitter.

“The governor was responsible,” he said. “She took (the pandemic) seriously, and so did I. “

A sign on the front door of Nob Hill Music reads “No Mask, No Brain, No Entry”.

“I was sorry to lose the business, but I’m happy to still be in business,” Schroeder said. It’s even possible that months of self-isolation could yield positive results for the store.

“After you’ve been home for a year listening to the same music, you need different things,” Schroeder said.

Chances are, Nob Hill Music has what you need: rock, hip-hop, rap, blues, soul, world, country, classical, folk, soundtracks, vinyls, cassettes, and CDs.

“But no eight-track tapes,” Schroeder said. “All eight tracks are dead.”


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