NJ record store in business since 1934
Joan and Bill Demarest sing along while they work to a song they wrote and recorded about themselves and Music Country, the record store they've run for the last 50-plus years.
"I was practically born here," Joan says. Her father Anthony opened this shop at this location in Cliffside Park in 1934. Joan and Bill took over after Anthony died.
"'What should we do: Sell the store or do you want to do that full-time?' And it wasn't much of a decision," she says.
More than half a century later, Joan and Bill still do this full-time, jamming with a cast of regulars in perhaps the oldest record store in the nation.
"I've been researching for many, many years and I can't find anybody else in the same spot, in the same family," she says.
"Anybody who likes music is going to come here and we're going to talk music or we're going to play music, one or the other," Bill says.
Bill and Joan spend less time selling albums than they do searching for them, playing music, and -- if you catch them in the right mood -- telling stories.
"I guess I was a fairly young teenager, right behind the counter there, all alone in the store, so I have no other witnesses," Joan says. Joan remembers a big black four-doored sedan pulling up in front of the shop. "And this gorgeous looking guy just jumps out of the back seat.. and I look at him and go: 'Whoa!' I couldn't help it, you know?"
And into the one-room record store on Anderson Avenue, past a poster of his likeness on the wall, strutted Elvis Presley.
"And I'm looking at the picture and I could not talk," Joan says.
The King paid $25 for a record player he saw in the window.
"And he grabbed it. 'Thank you very much.' And he jumped into the backseat of the car and they just took off," Joan says.
Elvis left this building never to return. But 81 years of other customers stopped by Music Country again and again to chat with the owners who describe themselves as "Too old to rock and roll but too young to die" and flip through the store's collection of vinyl.
"They want to come in and see it. They want to feel it. They want to touch it," Bill says.
According to Nielsen, vinyl sales have grown more than 260 percent the last five years.
"We're having a lot of fun selling things we haven't in a long time," Joan says.
And so what's old remains old but suddenly popular. Bill and Joan have no music country successor in mind but plan to continue talking, making, and selling music here for as long as they're able.
"We're still here because I don't know why," Joan says. "No one's thrown us out."
Bill, Joan and a cat named Trixy lip-syncing along to their own doo-wop recording in the oldest record store in America.