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Platterpus record store celebrates 30 years

  • Dave Witthaus, owner of Platterpus Records, which is marking 30 years in business. Platterpus started in Westfield, moved to Hadley, and is now  in Easthampton.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Dave Witthaus, owner of Platterpus Records, which is marking 30 years in business. Platterpus started in Westfield, moved to Hadley, and is now in Easthampton.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Platterpus Records storefront on Cottage Street. "Over the past couple years Easthampton has become more and more of a destination," says owner Dave Witthaus.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    The Platterpus Records storefront on Cottage Street. "Over the past couple years Easthampton has become more and more of a destination," says owner Dave Witthaus.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dave Witthaus, owner of Platterpus Records in Easthampton.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Dave Witthaus, owner of Platterpus Records in Easthampton.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  •  Platterpus Records in Easthampton.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Platterpus Records in Easthampton.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dave Witthaus, owner of Platterpus Records, which is marking 30 years in business. Platterpus started in Westfield, moved to Hadley, and is now  in Easthampton.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • The Platterpus Records storefront on Cottage Street. "Over the past couple years Easthampton has become more and more of a destination," says owner Dave Witthaus.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Dave Witthaus, owner of Platterpus Records in Easthampton.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  •  Platterpus Records in Easthampton.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

Owner David Witthaus knows exactly what record stores used to be like because he has owned the business for 30 years.

“I’m amazed I’m still here,” said Witthaus, 55, of Holyoke Street.

The store is the only one of its kind in the city, which used to be home to several now-shuttered record stores including Night Owl Records on Cottage Street, Time Machine Records and Books on Union Street and Turn it up! in the Eastworks Building.

When Witthaus opened the first Platterpus Records store in Westfield on Sept. 1, 1982, he was 25 years old and the number-one record in the country was Fleetwood Mac’s “Mirage.” Customers can still find plenty of Fleetwood Mac on the store’s shelves, although they may not find any of this year’s number ones. After years of selling new CDs, Witthaus decided to focus on vinyl almost exclusively about seven years ago.

Witthaus said the best years for business were the 1990s, when CDs were the new had-to-have commodities. “Tuesday was new-release day, so it’d be busy,” he said. For big releases, like ones from Bruce Springsteen or U2, he would open at midnight and fans would pack the store to get their hands on the new album.

Around the same time, he was getting calls from shopping malls asking him to move his business or open a satellite store “because they just had to have a record store at their mall,” he said.

Witthaus sold off his vinyl selection in 1989 to make room for the CDs people were asking for. “Then in about 2001, the bottom just fell out,” he said. “It wasn’t until about 2005 when vinyl started to take off that I started to do well again.”

The rise of Internet downloading and digital music hurt business some, Witthaus said, but the most detrimental development was technology that allowed people to copy CDs.

“When there was a new release, a group of people would come in and everyone would buy a copy,” he recalled. “Now, one person will buy it and say, ‘I’ll burn you all a copy.’ ”

A journey

After 25 years in Westfield, Witthaus moved Platterpus to the Hampshire Mall in Hadley. He said that he got “burnt out on being in a mall” after two years and closed the shop.

It reopened in a storefront at 74 Cottage St. in summer 2010. He changed the business’s name to Platterpus, Too, because the vinyl-focused store was so different from his former CD business. Now, he said, he is dropping the “too” because it confuses people.

After less than a year at 74 Cottage St. Witthaus had to relocate. His landlord decided to move his offices into the storefront, and Platterpus moved down the block to its current space at 28 Cottage St.

The small store is filled with racks, crates and piles of used vinyl records. One wall display features used CDs, and there are shelves of music memorabilia including books, posters, patches and stickers.

Witthaus said that in the 1990s record stores used to compete with each other when pricing new releases. Now, he said, the few record stores left, including Turn it up! in Northampton and Mystery Train in Amherst, make up a small, friendly community.

Each one has its niche, he said. “I’ve always had a kind of classic rock focus,” he said. “We do very little collectibles. Most everything in here is $6, $8 or maybe $10, and we have lots of $1 records,” he said, gesturing to a customer browsing through the crates of singles.

“Have you heard the version of ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ on here?” Witthaus asks a customer while ringing up the Peter Carr record he is purchasing. “It will blow your mind.”

After the customer left, Witthaus said talking shop with patrons is one of the perks of the job.

“I always say it’s one of the few industries where people are really passionate about what they sell,” he said. “I can’t believe people would talk passionately about a six-pack of Coke.”

Though the store has moved around, Witthaus said he still sees customers who have been shopping at Platterpus since day one.

“Over the past couple years, Easthampton has become more and more of a destination,” he said. “Now people I haven’t seen in 25 years are stopping in when they come to Popcorn Noir or Mount Tom’s Ice Cream, and they say, ‘Are you the same guy?’ ”

His standard answer? “Yes, the same guy, just grayer.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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