How a small record store made an outsider feel at home in Birmingham

Screen Shot 2019 08 26 at 2.39.22 PM How a small record store made an outsider feel at home in Birmingham
Jimmy Griffin and I with a copy of one of my favorite albums. Photo by Nathan Watson for Bham Now.

Everything old is new again! Vinyl records are popular once more. Here’s the story of how one small record store made an outsider (me!) feel at home in Birmingham.

As a young high school graduate moving to a new city for the first time, I was lost. I had no idea where to branch out, meet people, or explore Birmingham. So I turned to something that had always been a comfort for me – music. Since I was a child, I spent every minute I could listening to music. In the car, doing schoolwork, relaxing in my room, you name it. So as a young newcomer to Birmingham, I found a home at my favorite place to discover music – Renaissance Records.

A hometown record store

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Renaissance Records on 2020 11th Ave. South. Photo by Nathan Watson for Bham Now.

If I wasn’t on the lookout for a record shop, I probably would have missed Renaissance Records. The shop is nestled behind Highlands Methodist Church in Five Points South. Renaissance Records is one of three independently-owned record stores in Birmingham and a host for the annual Record Store Day.

The people and the music

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Renaissance Records is filled to the brim with vinyl records, cassette tapes, posters, and much more. Photo by Nathan Watson for Bham Now.

Forget the music – what really makes Renaissance Records special are the people. Renaissance Records is home to Gary Bourgeois, owner, and Jimmy Griffin. Both are lifelong, passionate lovers of music.

Since 2003, Gary and Jimmy have been helping Birminghamians find their next favorite artist. When I walked in looking for an Eagles album, Jimmy quickly suggested I listen to a band named Poco. Since then, I’ve picked up 9 of their albums! So if you’re looking to discover new music, the staff at Renaissance Records is happy to help out.

Home away from home

4 How a small record store made an outsider feel at home in Birmingham
Music on every imaginable format in Renaissance Records. Photo by Nathan Watson for Bham Now.

“So many different people are obsessed with different styles and different formats. You can’t really put a handle on it, except for the common love of music.”

Jimmy Griffin

The inside of Renaissance Records is a music-lover’s dream. The floor-plan is that of a maze, as boxes upon boxes of records fill the tables and floor. Additionally, posters of famous artists and acts line the walls. Vinyl records are not the only music format that Renaissance offers: they have cassette tapes, CDs, even 8-track tapes!

As Jimmy puts it, the folks at Renaissance are brought together by the common love of music. Whether you’re into jazz, rap, rock and roll, blues, country, etc., Renaissance has something for you. If you’re like me, Renaissance Records might just become your home away from home.

What artists have you discovered via a record store? Let us know @Bham Now!

Nathan Watson
Nathan Watson

Senior Content Producer with Bham Now | Originally from Tennessee, Nathan moved to The Magic City after graduating from Birmingham-Southern College. Nathan is passionate about recognizing Birmingham's history and is thrilled to learn more about the big things planned for The Magic City's future.

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