"We're about music, plain and simple," says Govindan Kartha, owner of New World Record at 765 Elmwood Ave. "We are about artists, not trends.
Kartha is pondering his store's success as the establishment celebrates its 20th anniversary with a monthlong series of concerts, events and in-store appearances in Buffalo. He considers his own words, then laughs.
"The idea from the beginning was that we'd be concerned with artists with a legacy and some sense of heritage, as well as younger artists who we think will have a legacy later on."
A sense of place
In its two decades in business, New World Record has served not only musical artists but the neighborhood where it's located.
"When you shop at an independent store, you just feel like you're giving something back to the community you live in," says longtime shopper Rachel Brancato of Buffalo.
In Buffalo, with its weary economy and lack of job growth, the need to shop locally takes on increased relevance.
As New World Record marks its 20th anniversary, it also celebrates the endurance that so often eludes independent stores in these parts. New World is not the only, nor is it the oldest, independent record store in Buffalo. Home of the Hits, 1105 Elmwood Ave., has been around in one form or another for longer. The Record Theatre chain, which now operates four stores in and around Buffalo, has been up and running for decades. Doris Records, at 286 E. Ferry St., serves the city's East Side.
But New World, under the management of Khartha, has flourished, in relative terms. Its success reflects, in some fashion, the broader success of the Elmwood area of the city.
"It's all about supporting your community," says Brancato. "Elmwood is one of the few vibrant neighborhoods in Buffalo. It's critical, I think, that we support its vendors if we want to maintain a healthy local economy."
In 1998, New World became the only area store to gain full membership in the Coalition of Independent Music Stores, a group founded in 1995 to house what it calls "some of the best independent music stores in America." CIMS is currently comprised of 70 stores in 24 states.
"Having these other stores as colleagues is invaluable," says Elizabeth Eisenhauer, Kartha's wife and an employee at New World. "These are the best colleagues that you could ask for. There's a lot of give and take, a lot of learning on both sides of the equation."
One of things Kartha and Eisenhauer learned from their coalition brethren was the value of diversifying. New World now carries an interesting array of novelties and music-related items, from rock star bobble heads to hipster lunch boxes, T-shirts, posters and postcards. According to Kartha, some loyal customers found this expansion disturbing.
"I understood why they (objected), because I was very resistant to this idea, too," Kartha says. "But in the end, having these ancillary items in stock, things you can't find elsewhere in town, has only strenghtened us as a record store. Our music stock has only grown since we started doing this."
Buffalo's independent music stores reflect a diversity of musical tastes and genres. If you can't find something at one, you just might find it at another.
"Each of the local record shops seems to have its own niche. New World has an upscale feel to it. But at the same time, you can find your third-grade lunch box there. And that's pretty cool," Brancato says.
"I have to give shout-outs to Home of the Hits and Doris Records," says Kartha. "I think it's amazing that Buffalo can support these independent stores. Each of them quietly goes about their business, and they do it extremely well. So there is a real community of indie music stores in Buffalo, even though it's really a small town. We're all part of the neighborhood here."