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Playing in tune: Newark’s record stores foster collaboration, not competition

Newark has become a regional destination for record collectors, with three record stores, all near Main Street within a mile of each other, offering the perfect place for crate diggers to find a rare vinyl they’ve sought after.

Wonderland Records, Rainbow Records and Long Play Cafe will each be celebrating Record Store Day on Saturday differently showing their own unique niche. July 17 is the second Record Store Day this year, with the first being celebrated on June 12. Both drops feature new vinyl pressings and reissues.

“People will travel 100 miles to go to a town with three record stores,” said Demitri Theodoropoulos, owner of Wonderland Records.

The three stores offer different shopping experiences and selection. Long Play Cafe has coffee and some light food items and specializes in popular music. Rainbow has its own custom-made flannels designed by Melissa Forsythe and other shirts along with an expansive selection of rare and independent music. Wonderland provides a recording studio for up-and-coming bands, along with a smoke shop to accompany a selection focusing on jazz and R&B vinyl.

“We work together. It’s a small business, so you have to help each other to survive,” Rainbow Records co-owner Todd Brewer said. “Our competition is Amazon, Target and Walmart.”

The three Newark stores work together referring customers to each others’ stores if a customer asks for something they know the other store specializes in.

“I thank the universe every day that there are three record stores in Newark because everybody benefits,” Theodoropoulos said.

Brewer is expecting a line outside the door when Rainbow opens at 8 a.m. on Saturday. He will feature around 150 new releases from Record Store Day on the wall of his store. Notable releases include “CHAMPIONS” a collection of outtakes from Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis’s “Jack Johnson” sessions, a 1972 live album in Philadelphia “Oh Me Oh My” by Aretha Franklin, a re-release of KMD’s “Mr. Hood” featuring the late rapper MF DOOM, and a John Prine box set.

Brewer said the clothing aspect of his business is complementary to music, as people who enjoy a band will often want to display their love on a shirt.

Brewer said an important element to the resurgence of vinyl is how new artists now regularly put out vinyl.

“All the artists are pressing vinyl, and even eight years ago, that was not the case,” Brewer said. “You have people like Frank Ocean or Tyler the Creator or Mac Miller or DOOM or The Weeknd putting out vinyl, and that’s getting younger people into it. And once they get into it, they love it.”

Long Play will feature live music beginning around noon, with DJ Coobie, the Gretchen Emery Band and Onism all set to perform. There will also be a barbecue with hot dogs, burgers, beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages. The event is sponsored by the Newark Music and Performance Alliance. The store will also have 15 to 20 different special record store day releases.

Owner Brian Broad’s mixture of a record store and a cafe was inspired by his previous home of Amsterdam, where stores often blend records with other concepts, such as a restaurant or a barbershop.

Broad created Long Play in 2019 after moving to Newark when his wife Brenda accepted a job at W.L. Gore. He said the main change over his two years in business was reducing the reliance on food as record and coffee sales increased. The cafe still makes its own kosher-style dill pickles and is one of the few importers in North America of the Paradiso blend by Italian coffee company Caffe Musetti.

“I’ve got a small but fervent followership for that coffee,” Broad said

Broad aims for the store to exemplify the Dutch concept of “gezellig,” a word similar to “cozy,” a place where people can hang out with a coffee, listen to music and buy a record. Broad even has guitars and amps that customers can try out.

“Think of your favorite place to be, where you know you’re warm, you don’t want to leave, you can get your favorite drink or your favorite book or movie and you can’t be anywhere else in the world,” Broad said. “That’s gezellig. And that’s what we’re trying to create here.”

Broad said that in Europe, vinyl never went away and he credited hip-hop culture with keeping record culture alive in the United States. He said a major appeal of vinyl is its tactile nature.

“All of a sudden, they got something tangible in their hands,” Broad said, describing young people discovering vinyl. “They can look at it, they can read it, and they can feel it.”

Broad wants the space to host regular concerts on Fridays or Saturdays so people can come to the store after dinner to enjoy music and shop for records.

“It really focuses the attention on what the artists are doing,” Broad said.

Theodoropoulos said Wonderland is not doing too much for Record Store Day, with nine or 10 exclusive records for the event. However, he is placing albums from his personal collection, such as Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” and Isaac’s Hayes “Black Moses,” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” throughout the store.

Theodoropoulos said record stores were able to adjust to COVID-19 well, using outline platforms such as Discogs to sell their inventory.

Theodoropoulos said Wonderland’s recording studio came as a way to use extra space inside the store in 2005. He originally thought of hosting a clothing section but decided that the inventory requirement on those ventures would be too high compared to a recording studio, because after the initial start-up cost, there is no need to constantly replace sold inventory.

Before the pandemic, Wonderland hosted concerts on the third Saturday of every month.

Theodoropoulos used to be a mechanical engineer before taking over Wonderland. The store was founded in 1972 and next year, it will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

“I’m not making nearly as much money, but I’d rather be happy and skip to work than be miserable,” Theodoropoulos said.

Both Broad and Theodoropoulos said the vinyl resurgence is partially a response to streaming, as young people wanted to have an experience with owning and collecting physical music instead of just having streaming access.

“Everybody has all their music on their phone and it’s really poor quality.” Theodoropoulos said. “Once they hear the quality that’s on records, they just get into it.”

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Voters will go to the polls Tuesday in District 1 special election

District 1 voters will go to the polls Tuesday in a special election to replace Councilman James Horning Jr., who resigned in May.

Christina MacMillan, a construction executive who helped run Horning’s campaign two years ago, will face off against John Suchanec, a retired Bank of America executive who served as a city councilman in the 1980s. The winner will serve out Horning’s remaining term, which ends in April 2023.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Newark Wesleyan Church, 708 W. Church Road.

However, many voters are expected to vote absentee. Under a protocol started during the pandemic, the city proactively sent absentee ballot request forms to all 3,173 registered voters in the district. As of July 13, 248 people had requested ballots, and 112 completed ballots had been submitted, according to City Secretary Renee Bensley.

District 1 encompasses the western part of the city, including Nottingham Green, Nottingham Manor, Oaklands, Cherry Hill, Timber Creek, Elan of Huntington Hills, Country Hills, Valley Stream, Briarcreek, Pheasant Run, Christine Manor and surrounding areas.

MacMillan grew up in Elkton, Md., and moved here to attend the University of Delaware. After living outside of the city for a while, she moved to Amherst Drive in Nottingham Green 10 years ago. She got her first taste of city politics in 2018 when she served as treasurer of Councilman Jason Lawhorn’s campaign. A year later, she served in the same role for Horning.

MacMillan said her priority as a councilwoman would be to maintain communication between the city and the residents.

“Basically, I just want to make sure there’s communication maintained with my neighbors,” she said. “I think I could bring some connection between what’s going on with council, listening to my neighbors what they want.”

Much like Horning when he ran for office in 2019, MacMillan said she’s not going into the campaign with a detailed platform of her own but rather plans to listen to what her constituents need.

“I want to get out and talk to my neighbors and understand their concerns before giving full opinions on some of the issues that are out there right now,” she said.

She noted that she’s already heard concerns about development.

“I just want to make sure that communication is open as to why decisions were being made,” she said. “There are laws in place and certain things that happen that make it harder for them to say no to those projects, so I just want to make sure there’s clear communication on why certain decisions are being made.”

MacMillan has worked for the Wilmington-based construction firm M. Davis & Sons for 23 years, recently being promoted to vice president of strategic development. She believes the skills she has honed in the business world will translate well into a role on council.

“I have a good track record of listening and being decisive but also being patient and caring,” she said. “I think that’s something I could bring to the community as well.”

Meanwhile, Suchanec is seeking to return to the council seat he held from 1979 to 1987.

The longtime resident of Tanglewood Lane in Nottingham Manor said he believes he can bring some experience to the council, which over the last couple years has seen many of the more seasoned members retire or be defeated at the polls. Besides Mayor Jerry Clifton, the most experienced council member is in his fourth year.

“That is the number one reason why I turned to my wife and I said I think I’m going to do this one more time. I said, if they don’t have the experience, maybe they need to have some mentors on that council that actually can be the rudder,” he said. “I don’t want to do this another eight years, but I do want to go in and make sure that the ship is running in the right direction.”

A native of Pittsburgh, Suchanec came to Newark in 1961 to attend UD. He has retired from three major companies: IBM, Hercules and most recently Bank of America, where he was a senior vice president in charge of mobile payment strategy.

He has also served on the boards of the Newark Housing Authority, Newark Country Club and Newark Senior Center, where as president he spearheaded the fundraising campaign to build the organization’s current building in 1996.

Suchanec said the biggest issue facing Newark is the proliferation of development projects.

“We’ve always had a comprehensive plan, but I don’t think we’ve really done a good enough job of actually bringing that into the real world. What you’re experiencing is that you’ve got zoning that allows developers to do certain things. The question is whether those certain things that they want to build really are of benefit to the City of Newark and to the residents of Newark,” he said. “You just can’t have the university abdicate the responsibility of housing students and put that burden on the city.”

Campaign finance reports

Campaign finance disclosures show that MacMillan has raised a total of $6,481, including $4,916 in cash and $1,565 in-kind donations of food and beverages for a fundraising event.

Notable contributions include $600 from her employer, M. Davis and Sons Inc.; $250 from former mayor Polly Sierer, $250 from former city spokeswoman Kelly Bachman; and $100 from State Rep. Mike Smith.

After spending $751 on promotional items, she has $4,164 left on hand as of July 12.

Suchanec has not filed a campaign finance report.

Election results will be announced at city hall Tuesday night. Check newarkpostonline.com that night or pick up next Friday’s paper for full coverage.

Peter Wiswell arrives at Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research near Newark on Saturday after a 3,600-mile bike ride across the country.

Christopher Jones receives his Eagle Scout medal from Scoutmaster John Sullivan.

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Newark City Council approves 48 apartments, office space for Casho Mill Road

A new apartment and office complex is coming to the corner of Elkton Road and Casho Mill Road.

City council greenlit the project Monday night.

Developer Lou Ramunno – whose company Liborio LLC also owns the Shoppes of Louviers and other development projects around the state – is planning to demolish the existing single-story medical office complex at 1501 Casho Mill Road and replace it with a three-story structure containing office space and 48 apartments.

The first floor will have 19,000 square feet of office space and two apartments, while the upper floors will each have 23 apartments. The project will include 22 two-bedroom units, six one-bedroom apartments and 20 studio units.

Ramunno said he expects the smaller unit sizes to attract graduate students and recent college graduates.

While taller, the new building will have a slightly smaller footprint than the existing one, which was built in 1988. Ramunno plans to donate 1.75 acres at the western side of the site, bordering the Christina River, to the city.

“Getting that dedication of land along the river, I think it’s a good thing for the city, for sure,” City Manager Tom Coleman said. “It will allow us to do better maintenance of the stream if we get blockages.”

The project exceeds the required parking, and Ramunno plans to add turn lanes into the site from Casho Mill Road.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently released new floodplain maps that show the Casho Mill Road site in the 100-year flood zone, so the site will be graded to raise it 18 inches to get it out of the floodway.

In a 5-0 vote, city council approved Ramunno’s request for a comprehensive development plan amendment, a major subdivision and a special-use permit for grading in a floodplain.

Mayor Jerry Clifton praised Ramunno for including smaller apartment units.

“I think it’s commendable. People always are mentioning smaller units, and now we have a complex that the largest unit will be a two-bedroom unit, which is almost unheard of,” Clifton said. “It reduces to one-bedroom and studio, which I hope equates to a little bit more affordable.”

In other action Monday night:

• Council granted a special-use permit to Jenni Petrucci to open an in-home daycare at 901 Kenilworth Avenue in Cherry Hill. A teacher in the Colonial School District, Petrucci said running the daycare will allow her to stay home to take care of her daughter while continuing to teach other kids and provide a needed service in the community. The permit allows a maximum of nine children at the daycare.

• Council appointed the first four members of the new diversity and inclusion commission: Elder Blaine Hackett, pastor of St. John AM Church and vice-president of the Newark NAACP; Patrick McCloskey Jr., an openly gay police officer at the University of Delaware; Sasha Aber, a Jewish woman and owner of Home Grown Café; and Annalisa Ekbladh, a disability advocate who serves as director of policy and family services for Autism Delaware.

• With the Newark Police Department facing several impending vacancies, council agreed to Chief Paul Tiernan’s request to streamline the hiring process for officers who are already certified in Delaware. Certified officers will no longer have to take a written application test, though a background check, psychological evaluation and other requirements will remain in place.

• Council agreed to let the state handle the administration of Newark’s lodging tax. City officials said it will streamline the process for hotels because they can now pay their city and state lodging taxes at the same time. It will also save city employees eight hours a month and allow the state to audit hotels’ tax filings using data the city does not have access to.

Christine Budynkiewicz and son Gianni have fun riding the Alpine Bobs ride on Gianni’s eighth birthday at Holy Family Church’s Summerfest in 2017.