George Casey calls his shop on Catron Street, where he stocks about 3,000 vinyl discs, Lost Padre Records.
It’s a riff on the legend of the Lost Padre Mine in the Organ Mountains of Southern New Mexico. Except in Casey’s retelling of the story, the hidden treasure isn’t gold but classic rock, outlaw country and Norteño music. “It just happens for me that in the late ’90s when I was a college kid and had zero money, my bank account was always at like, $20,” he said. “I could go to the record store and back then, people were dumping vinyl in favor of CDs, and you could buy amazing things for a dollar. And so I just happen to be one of those people that the vinyl sound, that’s the sound.”
Casey, 39, arrived six months ago in Santa Fe with his wife, Diana Casey, from Brooklyn, N.Y., where they lived 11 years. He brought with him years of experience in online marketing, record collecting and music appreciation. In Brooklyn, he ran an online record-selling site. The cost of a brick-and-mortar storefront in New York was cost prohibitive, at least without ties to a financial backer.
“Kind of in the back of my head, I was like, I want to do this, I want to have a store somewhere,” he said. “You feel like you’re doing something for the greater good to have something that’s community focused. When you’re online it feels very like Mad Max; you’re on your own and you live in your world and that’s it.”
Lost Padre Records, located on the ground floor of a home converted to commercial use, is the newest record store in Santa Fe. It joins two others: The Guy in the Groove, which is located inside another business at West Manhattan Avenue and Cerrillos Road, and The Good Stuff on West San Francisco Street. “Sometimes when you have a group of stores, it becomes a destination, it becomes an attraction. That’s a positive,” said Dick Rosemont, owner of The Guy in the Groove. “Everyone tends to have a different inventory, a different approach.”
At The Good Stuff, owner Ken Kordich said time will tell whether Santa Fe supports more than two record stores. Kordich, in business nine years, serves coffee and sells books as well as music.
“Santa Fe is a tough city for a small business,” he said, but added that the city “needs more stores like this, in my opinion, creative people doing well in all types of things. Young people in startups is just what the city needs as a whole.”
Casey brings a storehouse of records; he said he stocks about 3,000 items, mostly vinyl but some cassettes, too, with another 8,000 or so items in storage. His stocks runs the gamut from 1950s vocal groups to contemporary releases. “In the shop, I’m probably 75 percent vintage and 25 percent new, and the new is a mixture of new pressings of older material and then some actual new releases by new artists,” he said.
His average customer is age 34 to 44, a vinyl aficionado and a lifelong music lover, although he gets customers as young as 17 — some from Initiate Skateboarding, the shop next door run by Damon Archuleta. Those folks are looking for heavy metal on cassette tapes, and the two stores engage in a little synergy, Archuleta said.
“Skateboarders tend to be interesting people in terms of their interests in music and art,” he said.
The high cost of living in Brooklyn prompted the Caseys to relocate to Santa Fe, George Casey said. He worried the city would not provide the same opportunities to mine for music that he found in the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania corner.
Turns out that the large population of retirees here is often unloading vintage vinyl. “So I see things that are pretty interesting, like world music albums, psychedelic rock albums, obscure jazz records,” he said. “I bought some obscure jazz in Pojoaque out of a storage unit a few weeks back.”
Classic rock still sells, although Casey said the customers he encounters most are those looking for rarities, like the Beatles’ “butcher” album cover, the version of Yesterday and Today with dismembered dolls.
His business plan includes a focus on locally produced music, including offbeat genres like psychedelic bands from the pueblos and Norteño music recorded in Albuquerque in the 1960s and ’70s.
“And I am all for it,” he said. “I want to carry as much local music as I can. I’m just limited to the format that I have furniture to display, which is right now LPs, 7 inches or 45s, or cassettes,” he said.
Casey traces his interest in music and motivation, in part, to his grandfather, Al Stone, a Marine veteran of World War II and colleague of Alan Freed, the Cleveland disc jockey credited with coining the term “rock ’n’ roll” in 1951. Stone carried that influence to Charleston, S.C., where he worked for a radio station starting in 1952.
Casey, meanwhile, worked as a club DJ, including in Prague, where he lived for a time after college. “He was a really interesting person,” Casey said of his grandfather. “Shortly before he died I spoke to him about one of my DJ gigs, and he said, ‘You gotta play Freddy Cannon — “Tallahassee Lassie” — that will get every girl in the place dancing.’ And he was right.”