Never mind the complete digitization of the music industry, a trend that overnight laid waste to virtually every record store in the world. Up until recently, I remained a firm believer that eventually the tide would turn, that record stores would once again blossom in strip malls across the city and, more specifically, a nonexistent company that was swallowed whole by Blockbuster Video would return with CDs, magazines and posters in a brick-and-mortar store.
Why else would I have held on to a half-full Turtles stamp book and hundreds of unused Turtles stamps for all these years?
Turtles sat at the top of Peachtree Battle Shopping Center on Peachtree Road. The large, mostly music store transitioned brilliantly from vinyl records to 8-tracks to the cassette tape era. Always wanting shoppers to return, the store gave away stamps with purchases. If you saved enough you could earn $5 in store credit by pasting your aqua stamps into the yellow Turtles stamp book.
The best presents were bronze Turtles coins. They looked like a vinyl record on one side with the Turtles logo, a turtle standing upright looking backward on the other. After special occasions you could easily spot the kids dragging their exasperated mothers around the store, their pockets weighed down with the redeemable coins.
Turtles was not alone in the local music landscape. Long before two Blockbuster stores faced off across the street from one another, there was a detente between two iconic record stores in Buckhead. There was the aforementioned Turtles and on the other side of the street and on the other side of Peachtree Creek stood Peaches Records and Tapes near the Office Depot and Georgia Grille today. They are best known for a myriad of musicians who visited, including the Beatles, Elvis Presley and KISS to name a few, but are perhaps better known for the Peaches record crates. Made to look like peach crates, they were wooden boxes that easily stacked up to create makeshift shelving units in many students’ apartments.
Peaches was the first to shutter, the result of a 1981 bankruptcy filing, and the massive video store Blockbuster acquired Turtles and opened three Blockbuster locations within five miles of each other, two of them on Peachtree Road near Bennett Street literally across the street from one another. And yet their financial struggles are a mystery.
Blockbuster sold compact discs for about five minutes. The mega music stores proved difficult to match. Then those mega stores went the way of the Dodo bird.
There is some salvation for those of us who enjoy idle hours in the record store.
Several years before Peaches closed its doors, Fantasyland Records opened in the Garden Hills Shopping Center. For 36 years it has been a bastion of rock and pop music with the occasional collection of dated Playboy magazines. It remains so to this day, having outlived not only the mega music stores of the 1980s and ’90s but even the digital tsunami.
Fantasyland is more relevant than ever. That tactile experience of picking up an album or a CD and reading the songs and the liner notes is an experience lost to a generation. In 2010, the understated store moved from Garden Hills to 360 Pharr Road, where it has more space for more music. But at Fantasyland’s core, it is the same shop it has been for the last 36 years.
Thornton Kennedy is a fifth-generation Buckhead resident and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.