CD Central: Lexington’s
Original Indie

by Michelle Aiello |

CD Central, Lexington’s oldest independent music store, gears up for Record Store Day on April 16.

CD Central is a music lover’s landmark along the bustling stretch of South Limestone next to the University of Kentucky campus.

 

Lexington’s oldest independent music store — 21 years and counting — CD Central has long been the go-to spot to find an extensive selection of new and used CDs and vinyl, along with T-shirts, DVDs, posters, turntables and stereo equipment. Music fans know they’re likely to find what they’re looking for, no matter the genre, and if not the store will happily special order almost anything in print.

CD Central has also been a supporter of Kentucky for Kentucky since day one. The shop hosted one of our very first pop-up shops on Record Store Day a few years back, and has stocked kick-ass Kentucky for Kentucky gear ever since.

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CD Central is pulling out the stops for its ninth annual Record Store Day celebration, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. this Saturday, April 16. Free live performances by Shawnthony Calypso, Johnny Conqueroo, frigidkitty, and Palisades start at noon. The Gastro Gnomes food truck will also be on hand from noon until 4 p.m., and a sidewalk sale featuring $1 CDs and other discounted merchandise will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., weather permitting.

 

There will also be special giveaways and door prizes throughout the day and a 2016 commemorative Record Store Day T-shirt by Lexington artist Graham Allen will be on sale while supplies last. Of course CD Central will also stock most of the Record Store Day special releases.

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Not many folks know that CD Central is one of the founding members of the Alliance of Independent Media Stores, one of three groups devoted to independently owned, brick-and-mortar record stores that got together to conceive and promote the first Record Store Day in 2008.

 

“At that time, every article was about how record stores were dying,” says shop owner Steve Baron, who is also a founding member of Local First Lexington. “CD sales were dropping and the vinyl resurgence hadn’t really started yet. The groups decided to do something positive and celebrate record stores instead of talking doom and gloom, so they founded Record Store Day and asked record labels if they’d be willing to create special releases to be sold exclusively on that day.”

The groups decided to do something positive and celebrate record stores instead of talking doom and gloom.

Since then Record Store Day is celebrated annually at more than 1,200 indie music stores in the United States and 1,000 internationally.

 

Baron was born in New Jersey and spent his early childhood there. He moved around in his teens, and even lived in Belgium for a time. That’s where he saw his first rock concert — Golden Earring in Brussels. He attended college at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he majored in journalism. Baron moved to Lexington shortly after graduation and worked an early morning drive-time radio news show for WLAP for a few years, before joining the staff at the University of Kentucky’s Office of Public Relations. That’s when he first hatched the idea to open a local independent music shop specializing in used CDs.

 

“I really wanted to do something entrepreneurial, and had visited a few used CD stores while traveling,” he says. “I thought would be something that would work in Lexington, and no one was really doing it. Plus I love music, so it just seemed like a perfect fit.”

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Baron opened CD Central in 1995 in the South Hill Station building on Bolivar Street. The store was among the first in Lexington to buy and sell used CDs, which was a big market in the mid-’90s. Many a local music fan can recall taking in a stash of their used CDs for sale and scouring the racks for hidden gems.

 

CD Central moved to its present location on South Limestone in 1999 and, two years later, doubled its square footage when it expanded into the other half of the building.

 

Over the years, the store began to carry more new CDs, and then used vinyl, and about 10 years ago, when the vinyl resurgence began, began offering an even larger selection of records. While their big-box competitors are scaling back their music selection, vinyl has been a big reason why CD Central continues to grow year after year.

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“People collect vinyl for different reasons,” Baron says. “One is nostalgia. Some people prefer the sound, but that depends on the type of stereo system you’re using. And, for some, it’s more philosophical because it’s analog and all music starts as analog sound.”

 

Baron says that, for many of his customers, shopping in the store is a way to get back to the connection and community among fellow music fans that a local record store provides.

 

“For a lot of people, it’s fun to go to a store, talk to people, and buy an actual record that you can hold in your hands. You’ve got the cover art and you can read the liner notes and lyrics as you’re listening to it,” he says. “It seems like there’s a deeper connection to the music that way. Plus, it supports the artist and local retailers like us.”

 

CD Central is located at 377 S. Limestone Ave. in Lexington, Kentucky. The store will host its ninth-annual Record Store Day celebration from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, April 16. Call 859-233-3472 or visit cdcentralmusic.com for more information.

 

Look for our new Kentucky Kicks Ass metal stickers in CD Central goody bags on Record Store Day.

Happy Birthday was invented by the Hill sisters in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kentucky for Kentucky