written by Anne Lemmon
Owner: Dana Labat
4641 Perkins Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 to 6:00, closed Sunday-Monday
“Feed your turntable!”
Dana Labat had the idea of owning a record store when he was in his teens but that idea faded as he grew older. This dream became possible for him when he retired, after a 35 year career working for the Shell Oil Company in Norco, LA. Dana opened the doors to Capital City Records in Baton Rouge on November 7, 2014. “I always have collected records; as people began to get rid of records, they would ask me if I wanted them. I would go to stores as they went out of business and find bargains and my collection continued to grow to around 10,000 records,” Dana says. “I figured this would be a good thing to do after retirement. With the renewed interest in vinyl records and increasing yearly sales, it happened to coincide with a point in my life that afforded me the opportunity to give it a shot. I thought this would be better than sitting around playing golf. I can have my own record store, hang out, listen to music and beef up my own collection at the same time.”
Labat has always been interested in music. Like many enthusiasts, he can recall his first experiences with music. His first record was the 45 rpm recording of the Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand” that his mother bought him. Since his youth, Labat has attended concerts and events that have helped build his catalog and his knowledge. In his earlier years, Labat, who was born in New Orleans and grew up in LaPlace, ran the LaPlace underground music hall Mad Club. “Naturally, when I was a teenager, that was my big thing, music and going to concerts. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve seen numerous bands back when a ticket was $4.”
Capital City Records, located at 4614 Perkins Road, near the intersection of Perkins Road and College Drive, actually opened before he was finished remodeling and painting the interior because people were walking in wanting to buy records. Dana says, “The one thing I was focusing on was finding a good location. I tried to design it so that everybody is comfortable coming in, no matter if you’re eight years old or eighty years old.” With exposed beams, a brick wall, and a mural painted personally by New Orleans artist Kristen “KAWD” Downing, the shop’s layout displays the entirety of Labat’s inventory. Near the register, the colorful mural features iconic images of Elvis Costello, The Residents, Bob Marley, Frank Zappa, and Prince. “There’s not enough wall space to put all my heroes up,” Dana says.
Labat’s store joins two other vinyl record stores in Baton Rouge. For Labat, the shop’s true purpose is not so much to make a splash against its competition as to add to the city’s musical background. “I think what separates us is probably the stock we’re each selling. Every store has diversity of what they carry and what they’re able to find and put out for sale.”
“How can a new record store not be a good thing?” Labat said. “I mean, if you like records, you like the independent record stores, and the more the merrier, in my opinion. For a lot of years the folks didn’t have many, if any, choices in the Baton Rouge area. You had to drive to New Orleans to get your vinyl fix. But we’re getting to the point where we’re starting to compete with the amount of great record stores usually found only in larger cities.”
In an age of digitally compressed, portable music, more and more music lovers want the tangible feel of an album in their hands. The new trend in music is “something old”, a revival of vinyl records. Vinyl record sales have been dramatically increasing since 2006 after bottoming in the early 1990s. In 2013, there were 6.1 million sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks music sales.
The store has 20,000, and counting, new and used vinyl records, plus…45’s, CD’s, tapes, posters, T-shirts, turntables and more. Dana has the largest selection in Baton Rouge and the surrounding area. “We guarantee the lowest prices you’ll find anywhere. We have a large selection of vintage (best selection in the south) “NOS” – (New Old Stock) vinyl records. We literally have thousands of LP’s in stock now, from the 60’s through the 80’s that are still sealed; the vast majority are original 1st pressings.” Finding a record that is still sealed is like finding a Barbie Doll still in the box. Sealed records vary in prices depending on condition and what is included, such as posters and photographs. The value also depends on how many copies were made. For example, most Elvis records are not that valuable because so many were sold. Dana has an original Buddy Holly album, 1st pressing from 1959 for $200.
“We stock all genres of music, from rock, alternative, punk, pop, blues, jazz and more. We also carry a huge selection of local (New Orleans) artists.”
“In addition to selling records, we trade and buy them. Bring your unwanted LP’s, CD’s and other music related memorabilia, and let’s make a deal. Our $1.99 bins are full of great finds at budget prices. Come in and go through them.”
“The fact is the digital era is here, whether it be music, movies or books,” he said. “But, I think there will always be a niche market out there for the vinyl format. Music has always been one of my passions; I have always liked the vinyl format for music. It is something tangible you can hold in your hand. You have 400 songs on an iPod, what do you have? You have great songs but nothing to show or trade. Four hundred albums is something you can hold and show to other people.”
“You’ve got all types of people, some are just collectors, and they do not plan to take the album out of the cover,” Labat said. “I have great, sealed collectible records that are worth money.”
When asked what he likes to read, Labat said, “I read a lot off the Internet while I am at the store, mostly trade magazines to keep up with the business. Record Collector and Gold Mine are two I follow. I like the record magazines from the UK.”
On the challenges of having one’s own business, Labat says, “It can be daunting at times. The key is making the customer happy, making sure they find what they want. Owning your own business is more work than you think it will be, even just selling used records. The hours are long, you have to deal with all the things that go along with running a business, every aspect, the employees, payroll, the permits, staying on top of the business. Every time you sell a record, you need to buy one to replace it and where do you get them.”
Dana invites everyone to stop by the store, say hi and check out all the great records and other merchandise. He invites you to “have a look around and be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all the latest updates on new arrivals, in-store performances, sales, specials, and other events.”