“It’s about reliving being in an old skate shop, being in an old record shop.”
I could hardly believe my bloodshot eyes when Coty Smith first emailed me a few months ago.
I’m opening a record store in the North End, he claimed.
Madness, I thought.
I checked out his online presence, and the plot thickened: Smith’s Good Taste Records is a leading supplier of hip-hop vinyl in particular, hardly typical paesano fare.
But then I thought, You know what? Why the hell not? After all, it’s 2022. If there can be million-dollar condos on the waterfront where mobsters used to dump cadavers, then why shouldn’t I be able to grab Freddie Gibbs and Alchemist’s Alfredo after sucking down a bowl of fettuccine?
And on those notes, I dropped in to pay Smith a visit before his opening last month. An abridged version of our interview follows …
How might we know you other than your new shop?
I have been in tech for the longest time, it’s always been my day job, director of product management for a software company. But I’ve also been into music and DJing for a long time. I got into spinning music back around 2006, so back when vinyl was in its early resurgence and Record Store Day was just happening. At the time, I had a huge illegal MP3 library, but getting into vinyl and seeing that physical view was what really drew me into getting involved with music and getting in touch with labels and working with other labels and DJs all over the world.
Everywhere that I have moved with my professional job has helped extend my availability to meet people in the trade. Traveling I’ve gotten to see a lot of interesting venues.
There are different kinds of record stores. Though most of the stuff you have is sealed, are you a digger also?
Yeah, I’m a big fan of finding samples, finding good breaks and everything you find when you dig. For me that was something I always loved when I was traveling; traveling was something I always did for business, but during the pandemic I lost that ability. Boston’s got a great network of places to dig though, and it’s also been an interesting challenge [to dig] online. All-new is great, there are a ton of reissues and a ton of things becoming available again, but there’s nothing like finding that record that was just sitting there waiting for someone to appreciate it.
You can’t give us the secret sauce, and I know some of this inventory is from your personal stockpile, but whatever you can tell us, where the hell are you going to be getting records from?
You have to know where to look, and to be at the right place at the right time. I have gotten lucky a lot of times. It’s hard to find those types of things, but you go out and find things that are generally available through distribution or the labels.
I think a lot of it’s about finding your focus. We don’t want to be competing for Taylor Swift records, even though we know they’ll sell. What can we do to focus on what we are doing directly. I love any independent record store, around the area or around the country or the world, because we all have something to offer. I don’t even see it as being even cutthroat. We get just as excited when we talk to other shops about dusty grails that come through.
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What do you think it’s going to be like having a record shop in the North End?
We’ve been [living] here since 2015. Again, we’re just trying to scratch our own itch—there weren’t any stores like this that you could walk to around here. So what could we do to find that sort of access point for others with that same challenge? Also, there are a lot of people who travel to the North End as a destination, and there are people looking for an experience that’s not just … eating.
Tell us about the setup …
Obviously being able to have music always playing is a big thing, and also we’ll have different performances come in. And being in proximity to the Garden and Big Night Live, we want to network with these [performers]. Behind the scenes, we’re primary vinyl but we’re also set up with cassette tapes. We’re about preserving analogue media.
Going behind the corner, we have an old school listening booth. Grab some of the records that you’ve gone through, see if you remember that sample. We have foam installation.
We also have an old TV set up and we’ll be playing old games. It’s about reliving being in an old skate shop, being in an old record shop.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.