It wasn’t officially open, but today in Durham’s Brightleaf Square shopping center, Schoolkids Records sold music. Stephen Judge, who owns the Schoolkids in Raleigh, is close to completing a deal that will see him open a second location in the space recently vacated by Offbeat Records. Judge was at the new space corresponding with distributors to secure more inventory when he decided to open his doors to the day’s warm breezes.
“I’ve actually been kind of quietly open today,” Judge confirms. “Because the weather’s really nice, I actually opened my doors, and I’m in here doing work. Brightleaf’s been a little vibrant today. People will walk in … I’ve only had a couple of sales because nobody knows I’m here.”
If all goes according to plan, he’ll sign a lease tomorrow morning and officially open up shop on Friday—quite the quick turnaround considering Offbeat’s last day was Saturday. Judge says the shop will be pretty empty for the next few weeks. He bought up the rest of Offbeat’s stock—mostly CDs—and brought over duplicate copies of records from his shelves in Raleigh. He’s in a hurry to get up and running before March 10, the deadline if he means for his new store to take part in Record Store Day April 18. (Disclosure: Jordan Lawrence occasionally contributes to Blurt, a magazine owned by Judge.)
It’s a quick turnaround in another sense, too: Raleigh’s Schoolkids moved from Hillsborough Street to its current location in the Mission Valley shopping center just last year, adding a bar with draft beer and more frequent in-store concerts.
“We grew and had a really good year,” Judge explains. “I said, ‘OK, well in 2015, maybe I can really start to look at the idea of [opening another store].’ I really love what’s happening in Durham. The growth here is phenomenal. The bars and the clubs and the restaurants downtown, it’s killer.”
But Durham’s Schoolkids won’t remain in its new location long. Judge and Brightleaf plan to move the store across the shopping center’s courtyard to a smaller—and, Judge says, more ideal—space by May or June.
As for competing with Bull City Records, Durham’s other independent record store with new stock, Judge isn’t worried, pointing to his Raleigh counterparts Nice Price Books and Sorry State Records. They’ve all managed to carve out niches of their own.
“In Raleigh, there’s more competition now than I had two years ago, and I grew anyway,” Judge says. “We’re all prospering, and it seems that’s really working.”
As for Bull City owner Chaz Martenstein, he will wait and see.
“I’m certainly going to miss Offbeat,” he offers. “It’s always a sad thing to see a fellow record store close, but I wish Schoolkids all the best.”
Before settling on the location in Brightleaf, Judge had been eyeing both Durham and Chapel Hill. Prior to his ownership of the store, Schoolkids enjoyed a 33-year run on East Franklin Street.
“I’d love to have one in Chapel Hill, too,” Judge concludes. “It really was a matter of which domino fell first.”