Long Play Cafe, a new record store and cafe, debuts in Lawrenceville

Do you know how you can judge the anticipation of a new store? Look for nose print stains on the windows. By those standards, the record store/coffee shop Long Play Cafe on Butler Street in Lawrenceville is generating a lot of interest before it even begins regular hours next week.

No one is as excited about new customers as Roos (Dutch, pronounced Rose), the extremely friendly pup who greets everyone.

Brian Broad, the owner of the Long Play Cafe, is a close second. This guy loves records. Not in the usual way of record store owners either. He wants the best for them. This involves giving each album a thorough cleaning akin to restoring a work of art punished by decades of dust and rough handling.

Broad beams with joy when he retrieves a rare, freshly cleaned record from 1968 by America’s lost avant-garde psychedelic greats. The record looks pristine, and even the cover shines.

The owner of the Long Play Cafe, Brian Broad and Roos.

Broad’s passion for vinyl began in Amsterdam, where he lived for 10 years.

“They were selling 35- and 40-year-old jazz records at a store there,” Broad, a Buffalo native, recalled. “I once said to the owner, ‘Dude, I’m coming back here because I live here. But if I was just walking by and reviewing this store, I’d say ‘The guy sells dirty records; it’s a crap shop. Don’t waste your time. But I know you, so that’s another story.

“So I bought the record and took it home. I have this machine called Loricraft from England that I clean records on. I also clean all jackets with paper towels with Zippo lighter fluid. (It removes decades of dust, stickers, and other assorted grime.) So I took it to the store and said, “Now, this is a 35-year record.

Brian Broad cleans records at the Long Play Cafe.

The Amsterdam record store agreed. Soon Broad was strapping this machine to the back of his bike and riding it around the streets of Amsterdam to the store every weekend.

“When we came back to the States, (the store owner from Amsterdam) asked, ‘What are you going to do, man?'” Broad recalled. “I said, ‘I’ I’m done with computers. I’m going to open a record store. I have no idea how to do it, but I’m going to find out.

Broad opened the first Long Play Cafe in Newark, Delaware, a college town (University of Delaware). Then Broad’s wife was offered a job at PPG, so they came to see Pittsburgh.

“We came to visit at the end of November and I was blown away,” says Broad.

Interestingly, while Pittsburgh has a number of world-class record stores, there are none in Lawrenceville or Bloomfield (RIP Paul’s and 720 Records), the epicenters of Pittsburgh’s music scene. Although rents are rising, foot traffic on Butler Street is busy.

Although Broad is the most passionate about records, he also loves coffee. He has a special blend of Italian Musetti coffee, just like he preferred in Europe. It’s getting harder and harder to find, but he has another Italian company working on a special blend for him. The Long Play Cafe sold food in Newark, but when Broad looked around Butler Street, he noted that “there was already too much good food here.”

So he focuses on what he does best. And that’s selling records.

Broad prefers, well, a broad approach to curating the lineup – there’s a bit of everything from 60s West Coast jazz to vintage Funkadelic to local legend Mac Miller (who was recording several doors down) . It stocks more classic and popular records than other local stores for people just starting their collections, including a mix of used and new albums.

Long Play Cafe. Photo by Mike Machosky.

Broad says he has about 10,000 records in his collection and only a fraction so far appear on walls and shelves (although there are some very good ones). Its cleaning and pricing process – which involves investigating how much each record sells for on the global Discogs online marketplace – is time-consuming.

A used record’s life isn’t always happy, but that’s not the case here.

“We buy records – walk-in, walk-in; we can visit the owner if he can’t bring them to us — and we’ll help people who just want to move things they don’t want anymore,” notes Broad. “We find value in almost every record, even if it’s just to make a clock or a bowl out of it, because of their unplayable state.”

(Yes, he makes clocks, bowls and coasters from ruined records.)

All discs used take a spin on the Lori Craft PRC4 cleaning machine.

“It’s one of the best cleaning machines made,” says Broad. “It’s a wand extraction cleaner that pulls all the water out of the grooves, taking dirt, dust and yes, mold with it. It’s amazing.”

To prove his point, Broad puts on a freshly cleaned Motown record by Junior Walker and the All Stars. The familiar, warm analog hiss remains, but all the crackles, pops and jumps are gone. This is a disc as close to new as possible.

Long Play Cafe. Photo by Mike Machosky.

There are comfortable chairs and a rug out front, which can be moved around for small performances. There’s also a basement, which is going to open as Bargain Basement with $1 record boxes.

The store has limited hours this week – Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment. Next week, the store will be open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We want to get a sense of the neighborhood’s needs and wants, and what customers might like,” Broad says. He assumes that Lawrenceville might want an earlier morning coffee or, if weekday evening hours are preferred, he’ll accommodate.

“I’ve got the doorbell here,” says Broad, who says he lives just around the corner. “If the lights are on, I work here, and you want to buy a record, come in.”

Long Play CafePittsburgh Coffee ShopsPittsburgh Record Stores

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