Eddie Bruce's rock and roll memorabilia store takes the stage at West End Commons later this month

The Vinyl Countdown

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Sure, one could spend May 19 watching the royal wedding, but why do that when you can be surrounded by rock and roll royalty instead?

That's the game plan for Eddie Bruce, owner and operator of RocknShop at 650 Henderson Drive in Cartersville. While the rest of the world might have their eyes fixed on the Prince and the Queen, he's hoping hardcore vinyl enthusiasts will be more interested in checking out the Prince and Queen records at his new shop when it opens in two weeks.

Then again, it's not really accurate to describe RocknShop as a "new" venture, considering Bruce, 56, has been operating a smaller record shop inside the Copperwood Co. store at 96 Iron Belt Road for about three years.

"I started off on one little wall with posters and a crate of records and it turned into one of their biggest booths, size-wise, upstairs," he said. "My thought process is if I can do as good as I did there without a lot of people even knowing that I'm there, I feel like being in a storefront in a busy shopping center where thousands of people come through every month ... I guess logic dictates, hey, you ought to be able to do a whole lot better."

Hence, why Bruce made the decision to move his shop into suite 103 of the West End Commons shopping center — he's banking on all that increased traffic and visibility to allow his rock and roll memorabilia store to take off like a Jefferson Airplane instead of sinking like a Led Zeppelin.

"This is more of a reopening, to just get in here on that first Saturday, get our feet wet and see how it goes," he said. "But we'll definitely plan something a few weeks down the road to kind of try to shout it to the heavens."

It's only going to be a part-time gig for Bruce, who has worked as an I.T. project manager for Shaw for about 25 years. He'll take command of the shop on weekends and some evenings, but weekday operations will be handled by his daughter, Michala. His spouse Tani is also expected to join them on the journey — which, almost certainly, will include lots of encounters with old Journey records.

Bruce said he's been seriously collecting vinyl for about 10 years. Today, his personal collection is somewhere between 7,000-10,000 albums — including about 50 different records from his favorite band, Pink Floyd. As an interesting aside, he said he seems to sell more Pink Floyd and The Eagles memorabilia than any other bands; the fact those bands are his own personal favorites, he promises, is merely coincidental.

Like any serious collector, he has his "holy grail," so to speak; a copy of The Eagles' "Hotel California" on Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab-pressed vinyl. It fetches a pretty penny on eBay — with an asking price of several hundred dollars, however, the album continues to elude him.

In pursuit of those rare, gleaming diamonds in the rough, Bruce said he often purchases personal record collections en masse. Some "finds," he said, are utterly bizarre.

"At one time, I bought a collection and it had a record album that was the soundtrack for a lesbian vampire movie," he said. "I would say that's probably the strangest thing."

Vinyl sales have exploded over the last decade and a half. Per Nielsen data, the market has grown from less than a million records sold in 2005 to more than 14 million albums purchased in 2017.

And that's just counting the newly minted releases — who knows how much money the older records are generating as they circulate around the second-hand market.

"The college crowd got into it and I think people have always liked being able to hold the album, to open it up and look through the notes, just to have something tangible," Bruce said. "It got to the point where you were downloading music and you never saw it. It was just inside your phone, inside your iPod, and it just became so impersonal."

That consumer demand for the tactile isn't the only catalyst for the once-seemingly-dead medium's resurgence, Bruce said. While CDs and MP3s might sound clearer, he insists the vinyl format simply sounds purer.

"The vinyl just has a sound that feels more realistic," he said. "It's like you're there, you're in the room, as opposed to a canned sound that CDs have."

RocknShop will offer more than vintage copies of "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Wish You Were Here," though. In addition to CDs and cassette tapes, he plans on selling retro video games, Funko collectible figures (which, fittingly enough, are made out of vinyl, too) and concert memorabilia, such as souvenir programs. 

Then there are the concert posters. On opening day, he expects to have about 60-70 of them ready to go. 

"They are reproductions, but they are very nice reproductions," he said. "They're framed, so they hang real easily."

Among those are several posters provided by the mother of Cartersville's most iconic home-grown rocker, Butch Walker. Proceeds from those sales, Bruce said, will go to Walker's The Autumn Leaves Project, a nonprofit seeking to help out individuals facing pancreatic cancer.

Naturally, Bruce has also contemplated turning his new venue into a mini-concert hall — not that he's trying to steal any thunder from shopping center neighbor Sixes Tavern.

"I think we've got the room if somebody wanted to come in and set up an area to play live music, we would be able to do that," he said. "Although we've certainly got competition for live music there across the parking lot."

Bruce said he's not targeting any specific market segment. Rather, he said he wants to cater to everybody from young teens to senior citizens.

"I'm of the adage that rock and roll will never die," he said. "All of those bands from the '60s, '70s and '80s, at least in some form, are still touring ... the audience is there and the audience is aging with the bands, and I believe that 20, 30 years from now, the music people listen to is probably still going to sound a lot like rock and roll as opposed to hip hop or rap."

In his mid-50s, Bruce said it was now or never to — much like Bad Company — live out his "Rock and Roll Fantasy." And the sight of seeing his customers taking home those long-sought LPs makes him feel anything but "Comfortably Numb."

"When you're around it all day, you forget people are looking for that one special album that you may have had for years," he said. "And when they see it? It's real cool and real rewarding to see that look on their face."

Can't wait until May 19 to peruse and pilfer through RocknShop's assortment of vinyl goods? A sneak peek at Bruce's shop is online at www.facebook.com/RocknShopCartersville.