Brian Lipsin is surprised by the outpouring of community support after his record store was flooded last Saturday, ruining much of his stock of records, cd’s, tapes and posters.
No one else is.
Lipsin, who lives on a farm property near Harrowsmith, has been Brian of Brian’s Record Option to residents of Kingston and the surrounding area for 38 years. He was preparing for a street promotion Princess street in his store last Saturday when a water main break saw water fill the basement to his store, where he kept his over stock. The water then streamed along the floors of the store itself and started pouring out the front door onto the sidewalk, takings records, cd’s, and posters with i. It took an hour to shut the water off, leaving all the material in basement and on the floor in the store either ruined or in need of major attention.
Brian thought the store was done. At the end of the day he went home, thinking his years as a music retailer were behind him. His legions of customers have had other ideas.
Brian’s Record option is unlike any other store on Princess Street, or anywhere else in Kingston. It is a music lovers delight even if it is a bit of a nightmare for those who suffer from claustrophobia.
I’ll describe a typical visit. As you walk in, a narrow aisle between piles of cd’s, posters, books and records greets you. You might brush into something and send 30 books for 100 cd’s crashing to the floor. Brian is behind the counter, his half eaten lunch tucked into a corner, looking pretty unkempt, talking to someone about Vivaldi or Def Leppard or Reggae. He catches your eye while sending the customer to the back of the store where the aisle are even narrower. He greets you while keeping one eye on his other customer.
“Up on your left, a few higher,” he says. As the other customer finds what they are looking for, he pays you full attention. And he likely has some idea what kind of music you are looking for. In the case of my family, it’s bluegrass, alt-country, cajun, zydeco, and we used to buy Christmas presents there for my wife Martina’s family, often on Christmas eve just at or a little after closing time.
He once said to Martina that she should buy a cd on spec. He couldn’t play it for her because he only had one copy. She bought because you can trust Brian. And still listens to it, 15 years later, the Magnolia Sisters from Louisiana.
Everyone who uses that store, from Queen’s students into jazz, to young fiddlers like the Abrams Brothers, to Fran Sinatra fans to millennial punk rockers, has a similar story.
The store has also supported music series, festivals, concerts, fundraising events, and musicians themselves, selling locally produced music that no other store would look at.
Brian is a trusted resource, his store a unique spot, the anti-Costco.
By Monday there was a Gofundme campaign underway, with a $10,000 goal. It reached $8,000 in a day.
“Brian is one of the nicest guys. Even though I don't come in as much as I used to he always remembers me and was sure to mention if he had any new-wave records in that I might be interested in. Wish I could give more,” is what one of the people who donated money on the GoFundme page wrote. And there are dozens of similar accounts on the GoFundMe website.
Two benefit concerts have already been announced. All this by Tuesday afternoon after the end of a long weekend.
Brian still doesn’t know what his plans are or what kind of money he needs in order get back in business, but he said on Tuesday that he has found that he still has a lot of material that is undamaged but there are some massive gaps, like “s-w in the rock section, all of the Tchaikovsky” that will take time and money to replace. But he is now thinking about re-opening.
But it is really the outpouring of support that has given him the impetus to start again.
He was dealt another blow on Tuesday when he found out that the store needs to be completely emptied and everything needs to go into storage so a safety evaluation of the building can be done, and while time frame for that is unclear it could be two or three months, which is a long time to wait.
The one thing that he can count on is the loyalty of his customers, the ones who come in all the time also those who haven’t set foot in the store for years.
And it all has to do with how good a retailer he is. He knows and loves his products and he knows and loves his customers. Those customers, thousand of them, will be ready to help when he puts his plans together.
There are other record stores in Kingston, even other new and used record stores.
But there is only one Brian’s Record Option, and if Brian Lipsin decided he wants to re-open and start again, he will be supported in that endeavour.
Kingston without Brian’s Record Option would be less of a town.