Replay Records interior

House of Wax

Never more the record store—not in New Haven, anyway. But Hamden’s Replay Records, about six miles up Whitney Avenue, keeps resetting its needle six days a week, with a fondness for grooved-vinyl 33s and 45s and the oldies-but-goodies pressed into them.

For the last 25 years, Doug Snyder and his wife Mary have owned what, in Doug’s words, is your “friendly, local, corner record store.” It’s a small, album art-festooned room of racks, shelves and crates packed with wax. The collection is divided into familiar genres like jazz and rock, some with subdivisions denoting the decade each album was released, and otherwise alphabetically ordered. It’s an easy-to-navigate setup, making a casual atmosphere for sifting at your own pace.

Behind the counter is Mr. Snyder, the unassuming audiophile. After dedicating most of his life to music, “audiophile” is a distinction that’s well-deserved, yet he tends to avoid that label, wary of sounding too pretentious. “I’ve just always wanted to be around records,” he says. His very first, acquired at age nine, featured cartoon characters like the Hanna-Barbera classic Huckleberry Hound. As he got older, Snyder became engrossed in “the whole formula” of music production. He learned guitar, made a few records of his own and ultimately got a job as a music engineer at Trod Nossel Recording Studios in Wallingford in the ’70s.

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During the mid-80s, however, the popularity of CDs skyrocketed and recording an album in the studio became more about digital cutting and pasting and sampling than it was about performances. This trend away from the analog approach to music engineering inspired Snyder to begin sharing his appreciation for the old way of doing things.

He opened his first shop, located in New Haven at the time, with his own record collection. Looking back, this is a somewhat regrettable decision for Snyder because he ended up selling some vinyls he wishes he still had. “Vinyl doesn’t deteriorate,” says Snyder, and a collection can document decades of music—and your own life. An old record can bring about a bygone memory, like a snapshot. A whole collection of them can recall the soundtracks to important periods of your life.

“I still collect,” says Snyder, remaining as attuned to his private stock and the selection that Replay offers—still not separate—as he was back in 1989. Each crate of records bought for the store gets a fine-toothed appraisal before being put on sale. If records are graded as “very good, they will be very good,” says Snyder. And, unlike an impersonal internet purchase, if a customer disagrees they can come into the store and say so; Replay offers a flexible return policy.

Nowadays, says Snyder, Replay specializes in the classics—the kind of music “that still rocks.” Legendary bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd make abundant appearances in the racks. Reissues and more common pressings of The Beatles and The Velvet Underground are equally present alongside cult bands like Big Star. Occasionally, Snyder grabs original pressings of these enduring bands; the ones he calls “perennials.”

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In addition to the well-known music of yore, Replay also has some records of your—as in, your local area. LPs from New Haven-based acts like The Mountain Movers and Phemale are there, and they actually came from another area record store, Redscroll Records in Wallingford. “It’s not about competition,” says Snyder, adding that exchanging records between them is pretty typical. He thinks a communitarian rapport between record stores benefits everybody involved. Replay even took Wally the cat from Cutler’s Records in New Haven after it closed in 2012, giving him a new home in the shop.

Also important to running a successful record store is a renewed interest in vinyl. “It’s like skipped a generation,” Snyder observes. The older, longtime collectors will come in for the rarities while a younger crowd, “the grandkids,” come in to start filling out their shelves at home. He says younger people are telling him “that they’re just getting a record player” for the first time. Snyder attributes this to the great quality of sound of a needle in a groove, and the unique atmosphere it creates.

Today, “Black Friday,” Replay is participating in an uncommon sale for the store. Specialty reissues and anthologies of performers like Neil Young and Lee Hazlewood are available, though there aren’t too many of them. Replay buys records too. Call to set up an appointment or just drop by to talk shop and poke around.

There’s a good chance you’ll find something worth playing, and replaying.

Replay Records
2586 Whitney Ave, Hamden (map)
Mon-Tues & Thurs-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12-5pm
(203) 934-9999

Written and photographed by Jared Emerling.

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