Jerry’s Records is a landmark to locals, but you wouldn’t know it to walk past. Aside from the busy entrance, it appears to be any other door on the street, leading to a second floor that is a well organized, diverse, and massive collection of vinyl of all types. If you are a record aficionado, or just keep a turntable for the nostalgia of it, Jerry’s Records is a great way to spend a few hours in Pittsburgh.
Jerry’s isn’t like many other record stores. Most places begrudgingly updated to include tapes and then compact discs, and then, with the dawn of on-line distribution for music, saw their businesses dwindle and eventually close. Instead, Jerry’s sticks with Vinyl, almost dogmatically, and because of that, is one of the most vibrant businesses in Squirrel Hill. On any given day, you can meet local celebrities alongside hipsters with encyclopedic knowledge of indie rock. Folks will be singing bluegrass to themselves in the back, and music students will stand scouring ceiling-high shelves of classical performances that are difficult to find digitally today. Simply put, there is nothing like it in Western Pennsylvania, and perhaps in the country.
According to Jerry’s, they boast over one million albums and singles. That alone should seem impressive. In fact, it is hard to fathom how large a collection of one million albums is until you walk in. The whole place is vinyl, and it isn’t a small location. If you limited yourself to a single small genre, it is easy to take 3-4 hours to survey the offerings. The ceilings are high as well, so if you are short, look for a step ladder or bring a tall companion. Chances are, you will need multiple visits to really see what they have to offer.
It is also well organized. I’ve had no difficulty finding if they had something I wanted, and for a collection of this size, that isn’t easy. They also have “new old stuff” constantly flowing in, including many rare and exotic records that you might not find elsewhere. If your collection is missing something, this is the place to find it!
This also makes a great spot if you are a music lover who is just passing through. When my D.C. friends visited, I brought them to the store and they loved it. From 2 tone ska revival classics to opera, their wide ranges of tastes were satisfied within the store. This isn’t easy to do with the crowd I brought, so that is a strong testimony to the value of this store.
Speaking of value, they are well priced as well. They pride themselves on not pricing people out of the vinyl trade, instead believing that their job is to move vinyl from people who don’t want it to people who do. They could easily charge 25% more on most purchases and still be fair, but they keep prices down to encourage the trade and it works. For instance I found a classic recording (possibly the most important early recording) of the Bach Cello Suites for less than I would have paid for the downloads of the same recording. Since that moment, I wouldn’t shop for classic vinyl anywhere else.
Come on by the next time you are in town. They are located on Murray Ave in Squirrel Hill, and there are plenty of shops and restaurants around if you want to make a date of it. Parking is available by meter all along the avenue and in a metered lot beneath the library at the top of the hill as well. This is a can’t miss local destination, worth being cared for and experienced every bit as much as the recordings it houses.