As I mentioned last time, the family got a few days in SoCal last week. We get down there about once a year, and it's a great spot for us because we all have our favorite places to go. Mine has always been Wombleton Records in L.A.'s Highland Park neighborhood. I found out about the shop in a most interesting way. Back in 2012, while in Edinburgh, I popped into many record shops. I asked David, the owner of a terrific music and book shop at Leith Walk called Elvis Shakespeare, if he had a particular 12" single by Close Lobsters I had been seeking for years. He told me he didn't have it or very many records like it because these two American chaps had recently been in and had cleaned him out. He said the lads had their own shop in Los Angeles, and they were traveling all over the UK looking for finds to stock the store. He gave me their card, and I made it a point to look up the shop when I got back. My love affair with Wombleton was born.
Ian, the owner, has made multiple trips to Scotland, Germany, Holland and many other places around the world looking for rare first-edition vinyl, most of it seemingly catered just for me. No filler. No reissues. He has brought back 50,000 LPs and 20,000 7" singles in the past six-and-a-half years. While Ian is traveling the globe looking for records, his pal Elden minds the store. He is passionate and knowledgeable about every record in in the bins. That might not be so rare for a counter jockey, but his friendliness certainly is. The shop itself looks like the sitting room of a home in the UK, right down to the wallpaper and furniture. You will never find a cozier place to buy records. To sum it up, there isn't another record shop like it in America, and I have always been more than happy to go to Disneyland (for the kids) and outlet shopping at Desert Hills (for the Mrs.) knowing I will get my hour at Wombleton.
Here's where this tale takes a turn. It's over. With zero fanfare and nary an announcement, I discovered Wombleton has closed its doors. I feel like I have lost a friend. What happened? I have found an article in L.A. Weekly with some quotes from Ian that sheds some light on Wombleton's demise. I have written about this shop a time or two, and I have always made it clear the records are expensive. Of course they were. You can't travel the world and select each record by hand, pack them, ship them by boat and get them through customs and pay all of those fees without passing on all of that to the customer. These were not records you could find on a store shelf anywhere else over here, and it was worth paying the prices. What Ian told L.A. Weekly I found more interesting was his sources were depleting. A record he used to find abroad for £6 was now costing him £30. It's obvious a business model like that can't be sustained, but the depletion factor is far more depressing than just this one store closing. My family will continue our treks to the L.A. area, I'm sure, but it just got a little less fun for me.
How do I honor Wombleton today? I'll spin what I have bought there on past trips. What else can I do? Off the top of my head, I know I picked up records by the Hit Parade, Orange Juice, Josef K, the Go-Betweens, Rosehips, Wolfhounds, Sugargliders, the Wedding Present, Soup Dragons, Mighty Mighty, Strawberry Switchblade and Hurrah! Nice hauls, one and all. Let's listen to a few songs and ponder what happened to the stock that was still in the bins when Ian shuttered the place.
I'm thinking of you today, too, Swede. As a former shop owner, I'm sure this doesn't bring back pleasant memories.
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