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The store with a thorn in its side: Rough Trade record store opens in Williamsburg

Big names: Blur gives an in-store performance at Rough Trade East in London. The record store is opening a new branch in Williamsburg this fall.
Stephen Godfroy

This is it.

The London-based record store chain Rough Trade opened the doors of its first U.S. location in Williamsburg on Monday and the store’s co-owner says that, despite the place’s massive size and corporate muscle, it has a long way to go before it becomes the neighborhood destination for audiophiles.

“We see ourselves, hopefully, as complementing the existing record stores that there are in the neighborhood and the city,” said Rough Trade co-owner Stephen Godfroy. “Each has their own respective qualities, and hopefully there are things we can do that add to the mix.”

The record warehouse on N. Ninth Street near Wythe Avenue offers miles of vinyl, a thick catalog of books and magazines spanning genres, and a 250-capacity venue — complete with ping-pong tables and a full bar. Seminal weirdo rockers Television will break the performance space in at a sold-out show on Friday, capping a packed week of free in-store performances from the likes of rapper Danny Brown and singer-songwriter Sky Ferreira.

The U.K.-based newspaper The Guardian also opened a digital lounge in a shipping container on the cavernous store’s mezzanine level, offering shoppers iPads and a flat-screen television as a respite from debating the finer points of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s B-sides.

And the store is only halfway finished. The cafe Five Leaves Greenpoint is on track to open a small eatery inside the place and a DJ booth is in the works.

The shop at N. Ninth Street near Wythe Avenue is the only one of its kind in the part of Williamsburg near the East River, and it has something for everybody, according to Godfroy. Undeterred by the store’s proximity to ritzy waterfront high-rises such as the Edge, the vinyl monger says he chose the spot for its bohemian vibe.

“There’s a very strong sense of community, particularly from the artistic community,” he said.

Rough Trade opened its first vinyl outlet in London in 2007. Its sister indie label Rough Trade Records, started in 1978 as a record store and put out albums by the Smiths, the Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers, and, in a second incarnation, the Strokes, Sufjan Stevens, and Antony and the Johnsons, among other big names. The store chain has officially been separate from the label for 20 years, but both companies share a logo.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at mriesz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Trade union: Rough Trade co-owner Stephen Godfroy is hoping his just-opened record store will be a hit with Williamsburg artists.
Community Newspaper Group / Megan Riesz

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