This old record shop is keeping tradition alive

Editor’s note: During each Chips Quinn orientation and multimedia training in Nashville, Tenn., scholars are required to complete a mobile media reporting module, which includes producing videos and reporting and writing stories. Their work is displayed here.

by Pablo De La Hoya

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—On the afternoon of a big Western Conference Final game between the National Hockey League’s Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks in May 2017, one shop a block away from Bridgestone Arena was benefiting from the uproar of tourists to the Music City.

The Ernest Tubb Record Shop at 417 Broadway played country music, as usual, and offered a warm welcome to all who entered the shop. The store was celebrating its 70th year of being in business, selling records and CDs as traditional records make a comeback in an era dominated by digital streaming devices.

A statue of Ernest Tubb greets customers at the historic Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Pablo De La Hoya)

The shop is filled with Ernest Tubb memorabilia, along with signed posters from other artists including Loretta Lynn. In addition to records, the store also sells trinkets such as shot glasses and coffee mugs.

Andy Tucker, shop manager, said that the recent hike in tourism has helped keep the store in business. “This is the one place you can step into downtown and see Nashville in a different era,” Tucker said. The old shop stands proudly in a changing city, he said, adding that he knows it will have to continue to adapt to survive.

How does a record shop compete in a predominantly digital market? Give people what they can’t find online, Tucker said, adding that he makes an effort to listen to the requests of customers to ensure the shop has what they are looking for. He also stocks and decorates the store in ways that appeal to visitors’ sense of music history and nostalgia.

Tucker recalled first walking into the shop at age 11, which was also the first time his mother let him go anywhere alone. “I was really awe,” he said. He bought “A Satisfied Mind: The Country Music Life of Porter Wagoner,” a biography by Steve Eng.

For some people, just walking into the shop brings an emotional response, said Earlene Huff, the shop’s assistant manager. “Last week, a gentleman came in and he had tears.” A shop in which musicians like Ringo Starr and Johnny Cash have made appearances carries a lot of history, she added.

For Tucker, the memory of seeing Ringo Starr is a highlight of his tenure, and it speaks to the shop’s appeal. “It’s just a testament to the record shop,” he said.

Andrew Anderson, visiting Nashville, Tenn., as he travels from Colorado to Florida, stops by the Ernest Tubb Record Shop at 417 Broadway and browses the selection of albums on display. (Photo by Pablo De La Hoya)

Tourists Jonathan Zap and Andrew Anderson ducked into the shop to take a break from the May heat outside. At the entrance, a big statue of Tubb – guitar in hand, with “THANKS” written on the back of the instrument – caught Zap’s attention as a slightly creepy rendition of the man.

Anderson, who sported a faded wrist tattoo proclaiming “Married to Music,” was intrigued by a music culture he respects but normally doesn’t see at home in Boulder, Colo.

As the two men left empty-handed to continue their road trip from Colorado to Florida, the store clerk said goodbye with a smile on her face and greeted the next group of people with the same warmth.

Tourists come and go, but for Tucker and Huff the shop has become a second home. Tucker is proud of working at the shop and carries his position there as a badge of honor.

“There’s one of these in the world, and I get to manage it,” he said.

Huff recalled meeting Ernest Tubb. He was cordial and open to talking to anyone, she said.

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