Record Enthusiasts Find a Hidden Gem on Saint Mary’s Street

by Will Lingo | photography by Eamon Queeney

Correction: The print version of this story incorrectly stated that the owner of the Record Krate is Kirk Adams. The owner is Adam Kirk.

“Hello, vinyl champions . . . ”

So begins a video of Adam Kirk hauling out his latest stash of records to share with devotees on Instagram and YouTube. He flips through the albums, describing each briefly, knowing the people will come—which may not be as easy as you’d expect. Record Krate’s address is on Saint Mary’s Street, but from the street you’ll see nothing but beauty salons. Seasoned veterans know that around back there’s a door that opens the gateway to record heaven. Kirk has thousands of vinyl records (not to mention the cassettes, CDs, DVDs, video games and some other stuff you just have to see to believe), and over the last five years, he has gradually taken over the entire lower level of the building, after starting in just a couple of rooms.

Kirk says he’s been a self-described vinyl champion for most of his life. He remembers his aunt letting him listen to her records, and Chapel of Love by the Dixie Cups struck an immediate chord. While the rest of the world moved on to cassettes, then CDs and purely digital media, his love never wavered. Kirk grew up in Raleigh and made his way as an artist and an art teacher, but he never limited his passion to visual arts. “Art and music always go together for me, because art is music and music is art,” he says. Kirk believes art is to be enjoyed, not acquired and filed away. He’s a hunter, not a collector. He wants to find cool records and listen to them, then pass them along. “I never thought about collecting,” he says. “I always had records that I would look for that interested me. It was always about the hunt for the next record.”

For years, Kirk went to record stores, antique shops and estate sales across the state, looking for interesting vinyl. “I came back home when I was out of money or the car was full.” Eventually he started selling his finds on Craigslist or at pop-up shops. His success at the Cooke Street Carnival, an annual neighborhood festival in Oakwood, persuaded him to do something more, and he opened Record Krate in 2014.

Now people call him when they have records to sell, whether from personal collections or estates. “I used to hunt, and now the door opens and they walk in,” Kirk said. His love for the music and medium is clear, and he happily shares it with anyone who walks in the door. Regulars file through on a weekday afternoon, chatting about recent discoveries. Newbies find their way in too. “I’m trying to get a rough idea of where everything is,” someone says. “When you figure it out, let me know,” he laughs.
Record Krate has a ramshackle charm, but the casual façade is a cover for a lot of work and organization—and it’s paid off. Kirk has employees now, as well as locations in Wake Forest, Wendell and Selma. He also sells a good bit of new inventory, which he couldn’t have imagined even a few years ago. But in the front room of the store, you’ll still find a turntable that’s always spinning. It may be The Pretenders when you walk in, but Kirk will likely ask what you’d like to hear next, because he’s always on the hunt to hear something new. “Whatever comes my way, I’m happy.”

508 Saint Mary’s St.; Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri. 11 a.m.—7 p.m.; Sat. and Sun. 11 a.m.—5 p.m.