While record stores around the country have been closing, Westwood's own is still going strong, according to owner John Schlapak.
Music Merchant, which opened in May 1979, carries records, CDs and other merchandise from a wide variety of artists, including oldies-but-goodies like The Beach Boys, early punk bands like Bergen County natives The Misfits and newer artists like Adele and Lana Del Rey. The store also offers select audio equipment for sale.
According to Schlapak, the advantage he has over larger stores that have closed is his relationship with his customers, some of whom have been visting the store since they were young and now bring their own children. They know Schlapak and his Beagle, Cracker Jack, on a first name basis and make up the foundation of his business.
Schlapak said his ability to keep up with trends in the music industry is also improtant for the business. While running the store, Schlapak said he has witnessed CDs overtake vinyl in popularity, then a shift in the opposite direction as records gain popularity again. Records like the new Bruce Springsteen album, Wrecking Ball, come with a copy of the CD. Other new records come with a "download card" with a code to download the songs.
"I know my business, I've been doing it for a long time," Schlapak said. "You have to tighten your belt where it's necessary and manage your business in a more economic way."
Vinyl's current rise in popularity has been helped by special promotions like , which celebrates independent record stores like Music Merchant with limited edition releases. Schlapak said he will be holding a Record Store Day event on April 21 this year. The increase in vinyl sales has made up for the recent decrease in CD sales.
"One door closes, another one opens up," Schlapak said. "You may not be selling as many CDs, but you're selling more records."