Here's Chap on the suck factor of college-town record stores:
Funnily enough, the record store in which I spent the most money and had the most fun going to, where I would take a special trip to visit?
Tower Records, Shibuya. Ten story behemoth chain store.
I'm torn. I like funky little stores, and the best kind are the stores that specialize in their particular flavor of 1920's Albanian Dubstep or whatever...but here's a little secret I do not wish to admit.
College town record stores tend to suck.
The "curation"? Usually some clod in between gigs who doesn't know jack about what I'd ask about. The records? Upcheck on the local stuff, downcheck on what I'm looking for. Nothing's where I think it is and they'll special order that for me if I want--no thanks and I can go to Amazon too.
I used to enjoy the conversations in such stores, but not as much any more. As a guy who winces at the wrong times at showings of *High Fidelity*, I don't need some twenty year old clerk try to retell the story of Billy (sic) Holiday's recording career as if his erratic knowledge gives him moral superiority. Plus, I've been around enough to realize that the third time I see a Wire ripoff band come around I've seen that before and am not as excited as the clerk!
Because the college town record store has to be essentially Borders Music but smaller and more WXYC-ish, it doesn't get as deep into exciting obscurities and discoveries that weren't recent reissues played on the local radio station this month. Walk into college town X and you get record store Y with almost the same stuff as the last one you visited; it's like going to the Champs Elysée and noting that most of the shops are the exact same luxury retail joints you see on Waikiki's main drag or Orange Road in Singapore. Takes the fun out of it sometimes.
Schoolkids on Franklin wasn't a favorite for me by a long shot--good for typical Chapel Hill ragged looking two hunnert dollar skateboards with disagreeable stickers ridden by aging fancy trust fund socialists in Che shirts pining for Laura from Superchunk to show up or thinking their DKs tattoo was unique, not so good for finding what wasn't the alt.flavor of the month. Poindexter's on Ninth in Durham was much better for my taste, with guys whose bands played there every once in a while, and clerks who knew what they were talking about. Tower (and the remora stores around it which did specialize in a single obscure genre) rocked because it had sections that guided me towards things in which I was interested and--more importantly--didn't know I wanted until I got a taste of the crack they were selling. They were among the first to have headphone sets everywhere to play hundreds of different displayed records that clearly showed someone thinking hard about what was not only going to sell but what was cool and interesting.
Dusty Groove in Chicago, or Jim's in Pittsburgh, though? *Those* are national treasures, I'm telling ya...