Located just two blocks away from Washington Square Park sits Thompson Street’s Generation Records, the self-described “obscure, outrageous or just plain weird” Greenwich Village staple has been serving the artistic community for almost three decades.
While the used vinyl records market is Generation’s niche, brand new records of almost every genre can be seen from displays on the ground floor. But there’s more than meets the eye as it’s the basement that really makes Generation stand out from other record stores in the neighborhood.
Connected to the ground level by two flights of stairs with posters of Radiohead and the Rolling Stones dotting the walls, the basement does not share the bright and basic-record-store vibe of the street-level entrance. The dim light and restless hardcore music reflect the tastes of the staff.
“We know a lot of bands,” said Mark Yoshitomi, the current owner of the store, wearing his signature black beanie. “We sponsor local scenes, and a lot of the staff here has a history with the New York punk-rock scene in [sic] the late ’80s and ’90s.”
As a matter of fact, Yoshitomi himself is the former bassist of The Casualties and a historian of New York punk rock.
Despite having close ties to rock music, Yoshitomi and his staff have no preferences of which genre to put on the shelf. According to him, records of varying conditions and prices are collected from both small labels and record collectors selling their collections for money. Some albums are directly given by the band’s shop employees are close to.
Alternative, punk and metal are the best sellers, but you can also find large selections of jazz, soul and folk. As Yoshitomi put it, “We’re trying to make it diverse.”
There’s a small elevated stage on one end of the basement where many local punk rock bands have played at book and record-signing events. Just a couple include OFF!, Agnostic Front, Harley Flanagan, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids.
“Really every type of people you could imagine as far as music goes come here,” Yoshitomi recalled, pointing out the fact that many NYU students come to the store in September to buy posters to decorate their dorm rooms.
Although the vinyl market is experiencing a revival, Yoshitomi has never thought about expanding his business, and the store has never expanded or moved since its open in 1992. “But I think [the resurgence of vinyl records] is a good thing,” commented Yoshitomi. “Listening to records is a much more personal experience because it takes more to put on a record and listen to it than put it on the computer. It’s a whole ritual involvement.”
When asked about what vinyl records mean to people of the streaming media generation, Yoshitomi — lit cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in another — sighed defeatedly.
“It’s a nostalgic thing,” he said. “I personally like having tangible products, something you can actually hold.”
Generation Records is located at 210 Thompson St.
Email Jude Zhu at [email protected]