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"I've been coming to Blue Note for three years. I only listen to vinyl, and they are the only ones that carry it in the area. Besides, they have a lot more than just commercial music," explains store patron Israel Deoleo. Over the years, KRS-1, Afrika Bambaataa, Jam Master Jay, Erykah Badu, and Stephen Marley have also crossed over the store's threshold.
"The whole time I've worked here, I've run into people I never thought I would meet," explains Wells. "The vast majority of people have been really cool and accessible. They haven't had the whole 'I'm a superstar; I can't talk to you' mentality. I haven't really run into anyone like that yet."
Of all the photos in Perry's office collection, one stands out. Yellowed and faded, it shows Perry and Bob Marley in Blue Note's back office. "Marley was like a deity. If you were turned around when he walked into a room and didn't see him, you knew it. You felt his presence. Out of all the people I've worked with Van Morrison, Fats Domino, Sonny Rollins, and other jazz legends it was Marley. I had a box set of Rasta Man Vibration. It was all burlap with the record on the inside, different from the commercial copy. There were very few made. He signed it 'One love.' He's one of those artists that I wanted his signature. It's one of my most coveted possessions."
Blue Note also sells street art, original 1960s collectible lunch boxes, and rare box sets. Perry peddles merchandise on the store's Website and on eBay as well. One Led Zeppelin fanatic bought a 35-year-old poster for $1800 because of its rarity and good condition.
"I'm a crate digger," explains Perry. "Last night I went to several flea markets in Pembroke Park and looked at 5000 records. I ended up getting around 150. The rare pop-culture stuff really helps us keep things going."
"This is our second time at Blue Note," says twenty-year-old Matt Sessman, who is shopping with younger sister Liz, age sixteen. "We used to drive by here all the time. I like the crackled sounds that come from records. It's like when you go to the movies and hear the film begin, it adds a certain ambiance. Besides, we think it's a crime to listen to Jimi Hendrix on MP3."
Perry says having a recently opened Wal-Mart in the neighborhood hasn't hurt. "I can compete with them because they don't sell anything with a parental advisory. So come in here for the dirty words if you want them," he says jokingly. "They have a mild selection. It has kind of helped us because it has drawn people into the neighborhood. For the past fifteen years we've been here by ourselves. There were no other stores rented and there was no mall. It's like what Chris Rock said: öIt's sneakers and baby clothes.' That's all the mall really was back then. Thank God the city worked out a deal with Wal-Mart. It's bringing traffic into the neighborhood. As a result, people that used to come here are coming back."
How long Blue Note Records will stand at its current location is uncertain, but right now it doesn't seem like it will be going away any time soon. "I think that when everyone that currently works here leaves, it'll be time to sell the place," says Perry. "It's hard to get along without the people you love."