One of Northampton's hidden gems is about to move into the spotlight of Main Street with a relocation of around a tenth of a mile. Dynamite Records boasts humble beginnings. It started some 20 years ago, located in the trunk of a station wagon parked in downtown Northampton each weekend. The longest-running independent record store in Western Mass., the business has changed hands since then, and currently resides in the basement of Thornes Marketplace. Miles of vinyl, new and used CDs, local and independent selections, DJ equipment and a newfangled TouchStand listening booth (which lets users listen to most new CDs by simply scanning the barcode) now occupy the space. It's surprisingly airy considering its basement location.
Dynamite is the best kind of record store, run by music lovers for music lovers. There are no impersonal rows of crystal cases, employees in matching uniforms or carpet cleaner aromas. Owner and DJ Ronnie Kwon is also affiliated with Dodgy Entertainment, a local group of DJs who host parties at area venues. The used inventory is largely made up of the private collections turned in for cash or trade by music lovers. And the employees, who dress as they wish, post their favorite picks (which range from Portishead to John Prine to XTC), as well as weekly listings of new releases, to the store's website.
Hopefully, though Dynamite is trading its underground location for one with a large, windowed storefront and more foot traffic, the store will keep the same independent and underground essence. Passing by the Dynamite booth during the sidewalk sale, the disco bass line of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" floating up from turn tables in front of the new location, I got the feeling that Dynamite Record's sunny new spot would not subvert its charm, but only encourage more music fans to find the place.
Dynamite Records, currently at 150 Main St., opens its new location at 33 Main St. Sept. 1.