And not for the faint of heart.
Do not be fooled into thinking Armand’s Records is a record store. It isn’t. At least, not anymore. The narrow, graffiti–covered store on Chestnut Street may have once been the place to go for hip–hop, R&B and house vinyls, CDs and mixtapes, but these days it’s hard to find traces of its former charm. The front window advertises a series of seemingly unrelated things in neon lights along with a sign that says “We buy: Gold, Silver & Diamonds,” and the live, in–store DJ of yore has been replaced by a plastic mannequin at a turntable.
Upon entering, the first thing I noticed was a jewelry counter and shelves of colorful disco balls and other party lighting, and I thought I might be in the wrong place. I made my way further back, however, and soon wires and headphones gave way to rows of serious sound systems and DJ paraphernalia. It seemed like a fairly comprehensive selection of equipment, but the way things were set up made it seem more like a turntable graveyard than a place to shop and buy anything.
Now, I’m not generally one to be intimidated by clutter in a store — it can make finding what you’re looking for all the more triumphant — but when choosing between the colorless aisles and dark corners of the back of the store and the flashing neon overload at the front, I found myself just wanting to get out.
But before bolting, I noticed a set of stairs leading to a second floor. There were no “Employees Only” signs or anything like that; the workers that were in the store were deep in conversation with someone at the jewelry counter and seemed not to even notice my presence, so I decided to wander up. What I found was a ghost town of a record store that finally hinted at how awesome this place probably used to be. Music and movie posters still covered the walls (and the floor), but the lights were off and the shelves, which were still labeled by genre, were completely bare.
So if you’re looking for speakers, turntables, replacement parts or disco balls, and you can get the staff’s attention, Armand’s might still be the place for you. But if you just want to peruse aisles of music or you don’t have anything particular in mind, there are plenty of other record stores in the city that are truer to their name.
1108 Chestnut St.
What to look for: Sound systems & DJ equipment, lighting, jewelry.
Bottom line: A once–cool record store turned into a confusing selection of clutter.