You walk in and the smell of incense and woodgrain hits your nose faster than you can take a breath. The scent isn't pungent, but inviting. It's complemented by a smell you can only describe as "age;" the scent of albums that have been owned by God-only-knows-how-many individuals over the last several decades.

It's the smell of a record store. There's no place like it.

In my opinion, without movies and music, the world would be a significantly less beautiful place. Today, those two things are easier to access than ever, thanks to a barrage of streaming platforms. But with convenience comes an increasingly weightless experience I've sensed over the last several years.

No longer do you have to conventionally buy an artist's CD to hear the music. Nor do you have to purchase or rent a movie. Streaming services have made them all easily available with a couple clicks or finger-taps. If you don't like a movie or a song, you can exit out of the experience as fast as you started it. There's as little emotional investment as there's ever been.

This is why record stores and DVD resale shops are such great places. They pride themselves on physical media. And let's face it, sometimes it's just nice to bop in on a weekend and get lost in the stacks for an hour.

Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
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That's exactly what I did when I went into "CD's 4 Change," an unassuming strip-mall-centered music shop on Asbury Road in Dubuque. I walked in with no other goal other than to wander through walls of CDs and vinyl records. A handful of CDs found their way into my hands and eventually into my collection, as is usually the case.

I've found the best way to experience these places is to walk in with just a general idea of what you want. Maybe you like rock records. Or perhaps country music is your speed. Or maybe you want to look for comedies you haven't seen. That's the beauty of discovery.

Unlike with streaming, you're also limited to what the store has in-stock. That sounds like a deterrent, but hear me out. Where there's limits, there's actually freedom to think to yourself, "this is what a store has." The possibilities aren't infinity. We as humans like having options. Having innumerable options is more intimidating than it seems.

That said, CD's 4 Change does boast quite the impressive stock. I had a couple bands/artists across several genres in mind, and they had at least one album from each (I tried to mentally test them with Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony, but their rap section impressed). I really had to talk myself out of not dropping dime on the South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut vinyl box-set, which was a "Record Store Day" exclusive back in 2019. I'm still not sure I'm not going to be the one to buy it. Somebody has to.

According to IBIS World, there are roughly 1,900 record stores in the US as of 2022, a slight decline from 2021. The pandemic obviously did places like these less than zero favors. Many, including CD's 4 Change, supplement their in-store business with online stores on sites such as eBay. That allows people not in the area of said store to still support small business, even from afar.

I could go on, but the final invaluable perk of a record store I'll mention is the banter that's possible between you and the clerk. People that work in these types of businesses generally have an unconditional love for music, not to mention a deep appreciation of the art in general. Picking their brain for recommendations, and offering some of your own if the interest is mutual, is part of the fun.

Remembering talking to people? Yeah, it's still something that's worth doing. You might even make a friend out of it if you're lucky!

My wallet and bank account might not be too thrilled I found another place at which to spend money, but my spirit is. Record stores and resale shops are worth preserving. Stop in one near you today.

Also, enjoy a gallery of some photos I took at CD's 4 Change, located at 3305 Asbury Road (Suite 2) in Dubuque!

A peak inside a Dubuque record store!

A look inside CD's 4 Change, a record store located in Dubuque.