March 23, 2006

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Welcome to the hall of records
A passion for collection and an ear for music
By Richie Victorino  rvictorino@hippopress.com

Richard Gesner is obsessed with Daisy Duck.

Gesner, the owner of The Music Connection, has an eye for the rare and hard-to-find things in life; he’s made a career of it.

And who can relate more to Gesner’s obsession for rarity than Daisy Duck? Gesner, on a trip to Disney World years ago, realized that the image of Daisy Duck was hard to find among the horde of Mickey Mouse and Goofy merchandise. Mickey is like your everyday, run-of-the-mill CD. But finding Daisy Duck memorabilia is like finding a 10-inch vinyl version of Frank Sinatra’s The Voice: only those who are really looking for it will find it. Now he can’t get enough of Daisy.

Gesner is a collector by nature, a hunter in search of his own personal pot of gold. Daisy Duck might not be the Holy Grail, but it’s not so much the prize that men such as Gesner are after, but the hunt itself. And in an ideal world, according to Gesner, a collector will never complete his collection.

“Because then they’ll be unhappy,” he said. “They’ll have nothing to collect.”

Gesner’s own record collection surpassed 15,000 albums when he retired from teaching 18 years ago. He didn’t know what to do with all the albums.

“So I figured I’d open up a shop and sell them all,” he said. “Here I am 18 years later.”

His shop is a hobby which has evolved into a full-time job. But he isn’t attached to it.

“This place has been for sale since the day I opened it up,” he said.

Perhaps being surrounded by archaic, fragile albums has helped Gesner realize that nothing lasts forever. Impermanence is part of the lure of the vinyl record. A vinyl is a delicate treasure that will only last for a certain amount of time. Each time we hear its music, it’s closer to its death.

History meets present day
At Gesner’s store, history meets present day. He accepts credit cards, but you almost wish he didn’t; the intrusion of modern-day life seems abnormal among the thousands of pieces of history.

A poster of Korn hangs next to a poster of The Beatles. He likes David Bowie and Elton John. But he admits he probably wouldn’t recognize Steven Tyler if the Aerosmith frontman walked through his door.

“I only know what he looks like from the record albums from 20 years ago,” he said.

He speaks regularly with a fellow collector, Jonathan Harris, in Blackpool, England, not through e-mails or instant messages but by actual phone calls.

“They’re a little bit like history,” Harris said about why he collects records. “With CDs you have a piece of plastic, but with records there’s something more.”

The store’s speakers blast the sounds of Frank Sinatra. But it’s not a Sinatra vinyl record that is making the music, it’s a CD.

“A lot of times I’m taking orders or making orders on the phone and having to change the record becomes a hassle,” Gesner admits. “I think that’s the best thing about CDs, the convenience.”

But there is no denying the quality of sound that comes from a record, he continued.

“CD’s are clear and crisp, sure,” he said. “But there is a warmth to records.”

The hard to find
It seems almost perfect that The Music Connection is hard to find. You might not come across it unless you need to rent a tuxedo, or if you happen to dine at the 99 Restaurant or Famous Dave’s BBQ. One customer, who walked in looking for wedding music, admitted he accidentally discovered this place on a trip to the 99 Restaurant.

Neighborly love
Gesner subscribes to the notion of being a good neighbor. He might own a business, but he’s not in it for competition. He doesn’t hesitate to send customers to other stores.

For instance, he gave the man looking for wedding music step-by-step directions to FYE in the Mall of New Hampshire.

“And just walk through Best Buy into the mall and you’ll see it,” he told the man. “Oh. As long as you’re gong through Best Buy, you might as well check them out.”

Gesner’s common decency goes beyond helping out fellow record store owners. He cherishes the gifts many of his customers give him, from Daisy Duck figurines to a New Hampshire vanity plate with the words 45 RPM on it. People have offered to buy that license plate from him.

“I won’t sell it,” he said. “It’s a gift.”


Comments? Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at hippoflea.com

Where?
The Music Connection is located at 1711 South Willow St., Manchester, 644-0199. The store is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays). Gesner’s collection is mostly vinyl records (from classics to modern artists like Eminem and Madonna). But he also carries some CDs and cassettes, and you can get a free cassette on your birthday.