Renaissance Records creates and encourages community through the love of music–here’s their story

Renaissance / Seasick Records
Inside Renaissance Records in Five Points South. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

Nathan Watson, Senior Content Producer at Bham Now visited Renaissance Records back in 2019 and wrote about how the shop made him, a newbie to Birmingham feel at home. Renaissance continues to foster this kind of community for locals and tourists by providing a comforting ”blast from the past.” Read on to learn about their story. 

About Renaissance Records 

Renaissance Records
Renaissance Records is located on 11th Ave S. (Camille Womack / Bham Now)

Renaissance Records is a record collector’s happy place. It provides a blast from the past while fostering community through the love of music. Located in the heart of Birmingham’s Five Points South, the shop was started by Gary and Shirley Bourgeois and managed by his friend Jimmy Griffin, both big fans of music and record collecting. 

The trip that sparked the Renaissance vision 

Prior to graduating college, Gary was encouraged by one of his professors to travel to Europe to get immersed in the culture and language he was learning about in his classes. He saved money and took the trip after graduation visiting countries like: 

  • England
  • France
  • Holland 
  • Italy 
  • Spain 

He took a liking to France’s community environment of having a little shop and the owners living above it. He was later reminded of his vision when attending his sister’s wedding in Berkeley, California when seeing the small record shops lining the streets. Both sightings led him to envision himself owning and operating a small record shop that overflowed with music. 

The birth of Renaissance Records

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Renaissance often has the original copies of records. (Camille Womack / Bham Now)

Gary and Shirley opened Renaissance Records in 2003 while Gary was working as an English professor at Miles College. Jimmy joined the shop in 2014 and has since served as the store manager. The shop filled the space of a former bookstore located in the LaSalle building located on 11th Avenue South. 

“You know, we started off a little record store in the garage just big enough to park your car and that’s how we started with Charlemagne Records which was back in ‘77. Then it kind of took off.”

Gary Bourgeois, Owner, Renaissance Records 

Charlemagne then moved to Five Points South and grew from there but later closed in 2019. Jimmy was working at Charlemagne until 2014 before its’ closure in 2019. He decided to retire after leaving but it wasn’t too long before he called Gary to tell him he wanted to help out at Renaissance. 

“Jimmy told me that he was going to retire and he did for about a year. Then, he called me back and I said, ‘Oh, Jimmy, I’ve been waiting for this phone call.’ ”

Gary Bourgeois, Owner, Renaissance Records 

Overcoming the pandemic

Although the pandemic caused them to shorten the shop’s hours, the business has been great for Jimmy and Gary. During the height of the pandemic, Gary decided to take note of the “writing on the wall” and retire from teaching and fully devote his time to the store. It has been really enjoyable for him as he is able to work with his friend on their lifelong dream.

“My life plan from the very beginning was to teach, retire after 20 years then work in a record store and everything has come to fruition.” 

Gary Bourgeois, owner, Renaissance Records 

An international tourist favorite

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Renaissance has gems like Whitney Houston’s self-titled album, Whitney. (Camille Womack / Bham Now)

What’s cool is that Renaissance Records is a tourist hotspot for international tourists who stop by the shop because it reminds them of the small record stores back home. Some shop favorites include:

  • James Brown 
  • Miles Davis 
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Pink Floyd
  • The Beatles
  • Whitney Houston
  • And more

Renaissance receives a lot of its records from people who are downsizing, that sell or donate them to the shop. It brings Jimmy and Gary joy to see customers searching through the boxes of merchandise looking for the original record of an artist while making conversation with other patrons. 

“I think that people who really enjoy record collecting and listening to music are the glue that holds everything together.”

Gary Bourgeois, Owner, Renaissance Records 

They not only sell records but also cassette tapes, CDs, 78s, 45s, posters, books, DVDs and VHS tapes, Renaissance is a shop full of classic treasures.

Store hours and location

Address: 2020 11th Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35205
Hours: Monday-Saturday | Noon-4PM
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Let us know what record you find during your Renaissance visit. Tag and follow us @bhamnow on Instagram and Facebook

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Camille Womack
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