The current economic hardships hit Southeast Florida like a hurricane. At one time, the Ft. Lauderdale area was virtually peppered with independent record stores, like CD Heaven, Larry’s, Uncle Sam’s and many, many more. Since the recession, the northern half of Broward County with only two stores, Radio-Active Records and the Record Rack.
Luckily for music lovers, they also happened to be the two best stores between Miami and West Palm Beach. Still, what no one really knows is the curious intersecting history between the stores’ two owners.
Record Rack’s Richie Siegrist and Radio-Active’s Sean Keyes are unusual for Floridians, they were both born locally. Mind you, the Census just calculated that over half of the people living along the Southeast Florida coast, whether it’s such tropical islands as Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Great Britain or New York City…or from as far north as Montreal to Chicago.
When you meet Siegrist, he loves to regale you with stories about being a high school classmate with no less than Jaco Pastorius. He became the manager of the local Peaches back in 1974 and played guitar in a number of local blues and metal bands. He and his buddies used to sit on top of a tin shed’s roof to sneak peek movies at a local drive-in where the Imperial Point Hospital now stands. He also used to spin records for a local radio station on weekend nights, thanks to a sponsorship from Peaches (his first show consisted of playing Phaedra by Tangerine Dream).
Keyes is more reserved about his background. Yet over a casual conversation you will learn that back in the day he used to fly to New York City or Atlanta to catch acts that would never make the 300-plus mile hike down from Jacksonville. Then he got an idea.
He decided to open up a used music shop in Hollywood, Florida called CD City. As he explains it, the marriage didn’t last that long. So six month later, in November, 1995, he decided to open a new store on the other side of Ft. Lauderdale, entitled CD Collector in Pompano Beach. The store took off, in part by being on Atlantic Blvd, one of Pompano’s main thoroughfares. Another part was just Keyes’ friendly and knowledgeable staff, himself included. Finally, it had a truly eclectic stock, ranging anywhere from rare Mott The Hoople to the latest from not only Radiohead to the finest of local bands.
Yet as time moved on, Keyes started to search around for another location. In 2002, he found one just on the northern border of Ft. L, on Sunset Blvd. Enter Siegrist.
As it happened, by this time Siegrist was working for a local major music distributor and still gigging at night. He was tired of working for someone else for starters. Also, he had become equally un-enamored with playing at local bars and smelling, as he would clip. “like a pack of stale cigarettes.”
So in 2002, Keyes and Siegrist came to an agreement. They split CD Collector’s stock, and Keyes opened up CD Collector of Ft. Lauderdale at a new location while Siegrist took over the store that would now be called CD Collector of Pompano Beach.
Over the next eight years, time and the music market would have their effects on both stores. Each started to develop identities that better matched their owners and their locations.
First of all, the market began to rediscover vinyl. True, both stores always seemed to have various ultra rare bits of wax in stock, but over the last several years the vinyl started to take up more and more space than the compact disks.
At the same time, what the two stores stocked began to change radically. Keyes’ store is located in the Victoria Park neighborhood, which supports a rather vital artistic community in general. It also didn’t hurt that he was just around the corner from one of Ft. L’s few independent cinema houses, the Paradiso. As for Seigrist’s establishment, he’s in a strip mall surrounded by restaurants, beauty parlors and delis. One could say his store is more a reflection of Pompano, a blue-collar paradise whose citizenry also includes Marilyn Manson and the late Al Goldstein.
The end result was Siegrist’s store is a great one-stop shop for classic rock, blues, prog and heavy metal. In turn, Keyes will tell you his store is distinctively alternative, stocking more like a shop in NYC’s Greenwich Village, with a healthy dollop of Jazz to boot.
With the shift to vinyl and the differences in stocking policies, both owners decided it was time to change names. So Siegrist’s shop became The Record Rack while Keyes’ chose the more undrground Radio-Active. Interestingly enough, both made the name change in 2008.
These days, both stores identities are even more pronounced. You can tell just by walking in.
Radio-Active is the larger store. It is composed of two room main rooms, CDs and various paraphernalia in the front, LPs in the back. The back room also has a small stage, where musical guests perform about three or so times a month. The Record Rack feels more like walking into a mad collector’s shop. It’s chock full of LPs that are not only in the racks, but on the floor, behind the counter and just about anyplace one can find a bit of space. Yeah, it may look a little cluttered, but record collectors are an unusual bunch. They love getting down on their knees and riffing through stacks upon stacks of records, CD or LP.
Yet the true testament of both stores is whenever one walks in, there will always be a few customers in there ahead of you. True, both owners will tell you business isn’t like it used to be. After all, the current economic recession has made Ft. Lauderdale one of the cities that has decreased in population by the thousands upon thousands in the last two years.
Yet at the same time both still stand, maybe a tad bloodied, but unbowed. The two best independent music shops in Ft. Lauderdale endure, making them two of the true last bastions of joy in this hard hit city.
Radio-Active is located at 1930B E. Sunrise Blvd; Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304. Their phone # is (954) 762-9488. Their URL is www.radio-active-records.com.
Record Rack is located at 2767 E. Atlantic Blvd; Pompano Beach, FL 33062. Their phone # is (954) 783-5004. Their email address is RecordRack@aol.com and is currently constructing a new website of their own.