Princeton Record Exchange Changes Hands, Maintains Vision

Ethan Hawke PREXBy Stuart Mitchner

The legend known as the Princeton Record Exchange (Prex) originated in April 1977 in the U-Store parking lot on University Place on the same block as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first residence. “I used to find students and offer them an album or two to help unload a van full of heavy orange crates of records,” Barry Weisfeld told Town Topics Monday, regarding his sale of the Princeton landmark to store manager Jon Lambert for an undisclosed amount. In 1980, Mr. Weisfeld’s traveling record fair found a home on Nassau Street, across from Holder Hall, before moving five years later to the Tulane Street building it occupies today. 

Mr. Lambert, 53, still shares the attitude he expressed to a New York Times interviewer in October 2008. Referring to the “cold, sterile world on the Internet,” he said, “people get an experience here you can’t get online,” adding, in the context of the plight of independent record sellers, “If there are five stores left standing, I think we can be one of them.”

Customers and dealers all over the world will agree.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Mr. Lambert emphasized, “No big changes, no turning everything on its ear.” The “main thrust” is to continue doing what has worked so well. Prex has been named among the top 20 record stores in Rolling Stone; in the top 10 in GQ; the top 10 in Time; and in the top five in the Wall Street Journal. Customs inspectors in distant lands know the yellow bag with the cheerleader in mid-leap, CD in one hand, LP held high in the other.

In fact, CDs are the only exception to the Prex policy of maintaining the in-store experience. “We may offer some of the rarer CDs, classical box sets, and such online.” Even so, Mr. Lambert pointed out, the same CDs will be available, like all the vinyl, in the store.

Mr. Lambert’s wife Cynthia, who worked for Bloomberg and Dow Jones before joining the staff of the Mary Jacobs Library in Rocky Hill, was an important source of advice before the decision to purchase was made.

As for the former owner, now a Prex consultant and road warrior, Mr. Weisfeld has a lifetime of experience when it comes to hitting the highway in the quest for big collections. According to the new owner: “Barry is strong, tireless, and finds amazing records.”

In a way, Barry Weisfeld is back doing what he did so well when he began. On the road again.

SHOP Princeton Record Exchange T-Shirts at A Store by Princeton Magazine 

IMG_0798xx_large